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Empty in Chinese / Japanese...

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Quick links to words on this page...

  1. Nothingness / Empty / Void
  2. Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand
  3. Karate-Do
  4. White
  5. Nothing / Nothingness
  6. True Emptiness Yields Transcendent Existence
  7. Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate
  8. Humble / Modest
  9. Sky / Ether / Void / Emptiness / Unreality
10. Jujitsu / Jujutsu
11. Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do
12. Nothingness
13. Taekwondo
14. Shotokan Karate-Do
15. Drink Up! / Cheers!
16. Isshin Ryu Karate Do
17. Five Elements
18. Humble / Modesty / Humility

Nothingness / Empty / Void

China xū kōng
Japan kokuu
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Nothingness / <mark>Empty</mark> / Void

This means empty space, empty sky, or void.

In Buddist context, it can mean "emptiness of the material world". This can also be used as an adjective to modify other words with a meaning of unreal or insubstantial.

Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand

China kōng shǒu quán fǎ
Japan kara te ken pou
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Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist <mark>Empty</mark> Hand

The first two characters mean "karate" - technically they express "empty hand".

The last two express "fist law" which is Romanized from Japanese as "Kenpo" or "Kempo".

That "empty hand" translation can be understood better when you grasp the idea that karate is a martial art without weapons (other than the weapons organic to your body, such as your foot, hand, fist, etc). When you practice karate, you do so with empty hands (no weapons).

Note: There is also an antiquated way to write karate. It has the same pronunciation but a different first character which means "Tang" as in the Tang Dynasty. Some dojos use that form - let us know if you need that alternate form, and we'll add it for you.


China kōng shǒu dào
Japan kara te dou
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Credit is given that karate started in China, but migrated and became refined, and vastly popular in Japan. The literal meaning of these characters is "empty hand method" or "empty hand way". Karate is a martial art that uses no blades of weapons other than the "natural weapons" that God gave to humans (fists and feet). The last character somehow became optional, but the meaning of that character is "method" or "the way" as in Taoism / Daoism.


China bái
Japan shiro
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A lot of people search our website for "white". I am not sure the purpose, unless your family name is white.

This is the universal character for white in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.

In certain context, outside of the white definition, it can mean snowy, empty, blank, bright, clear, plain, pure, innocence or gratuitous. In Korean, this can be a family name romanized as Paek or Baeg.

Nothing / Nothingness

Japan mu
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Nothing / Nothingness

This is the simple way to express "nothing". However, this single character leaves a bit of mystery as to what you might really mean if you hang it as a wall scroll. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; as you can decide what it means to you, and you won't be wrong if you stay within the general context.

More info: This character is usually used as a suffix or prefix for Chinese and Japanese words (also old Korean). It can be compared to "un-" or "-less" in English. It can also mean "not to have", no, none, not, "to lack", or nothingness.

True Emptiness Yields Transcendent Existence

Buddhist Term
China zhēn kōng miào yǒu
Japan shin kuu myou u
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True Emptiness Yields Transcendent Existence

According to Soothill this is:
The true void is the mysteriously existing; truly void, or immaterial, yet transcendentally existing.

This is the state of being absolutely nonexistent after removing all errant worldly influences. This is achieved when all forms of existence is seen for their real nature.

This is a complex Buddhist concept. Feel free to add to the conversation about this concept here: Asian Forum: Shinku Myou

Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate

China quán fǎ táng shǒu
Japan ken pou kara te
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Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate

The first two characters mean "fist law" which is Romanized from Japanese as "Kenpo" or "Kempo".

The last two are a secondary way to express "karate".

The more common way to express "karate" is literally "empty hand" (meaning "without weapons in your hand"). This version would be translated literally as "Tang hand" (as in the Tang Dynasty) or "China hand" (sometimes "Tang" means "China" in Japanese). Even though the character for "Tang" is used instead of "empty", it's still pronounced "kara-te" in Japanese.

This is not commonly used in China - so please consider it to be a Japanese-only title.

Many Japanese people will say the last two Kanji are the old and antiquated way to say Karate. This fact does not stop this title from existing, as these four characters are often seen in Kenpo / Kempo Dojos around the western world.

Humble / Modest

China qiān xū
Japan ken kyo
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Humble / Modest

In Chinese and Korean, the first character means "modest". The second means "empty". Together these characters reinforce the ideas of modesty and being empty of ego.

This can also be translated as humbleness or humility.

In Japan, they tend to use a slightly-simplified version of the second Kanji for this word. It also happens to be an alternate/simplified version used in China too. If you want to order the modern Japanese/simplified version, just click in the Kanji image shown to the right, instead of the button above.

See Also...  Moderation

Sky / Ether / Void / Emptiness / Unreality

(Used in Japanese version of five elements)
China kōng
Japan kuu / kara / sora / ron
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Sky / Ether / Void / Emptiness / Unreality

This single character means empty, void, hollow, vacant, vacuum, blank, nonexistent, vacuity, voidness, emptiness, non-existence, immateriality, unreality, the false or illusory nature of all existence, being unreal.

In Buddhist context, this relates to the doctrine that all phenomena and the ego have no reality, but are composed of a certain number of skandhas or elements, which disintegrate. The void, the sky, space. The universal, the absolute, complete abstraction without relativity. The doctrine further explains that all things are compounds, or unstable organisms, possessing no self-essence, i.e. are dependent, or caused, come into existence only to perish. The underlying reality, the principle of eternal relativity, or non-infinity, i.e. śūnya, permeates all phenomena making possible their evolution.

From Sanskrit and/or Pali, this is the translation to Chinese and Japanese of the title śūnya or śūnyatā.

In Japanese, when pronounced as "ron" (sounds like "roan") this can be a given name. It should be noted that this Kanji has about 5 different possible pronunciations in Japanese: kuu, kara, sora, ron, and uro. This is also an element in the Japanese version of the five elements.

Jujitsu / Jujutsu

China róu shù
Japan juu jutsu
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Jujitsu / Jujutsu

This word has been somewhat incorrectly spelled and pronounced "Jujitsu" for some time in the English-speaking world. The correct Japanese Romaji is Jujutsu or Juujutsu.

A little background on the word: By combining the Kanji pronounced "Ju" (which means flexible, pliable, gentle, yielding) with the Kanji pronounced "Jutsu" (which means art, or technique), we get a meaning that can be translated as "flexible technique", "gentle art" or "yielding technique".
This word does make sense in Chinese as well, although pronounced, "rou shu" in China.

The Jujutsu system has a history in Japan that started well-before the 1600's. Some see this style as a variation of the "Empty Hand Method" (Karate-do). Even the samurai of old used some Jujutsu methods in defending themselves with their unarmed hands against weapons that could pierce their heavy armor.

There are convoluted relationships between various schools and systems of martial arts, but it's generally accepted that Jujutsu led to the development of Judo and a few other variations.

Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do

China táng shǒu dào
Japan kara te do
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Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do

This is the alternate title for Karate-do. This title uses a character which represents the Tang Dynasty of China. Thus, this is often translated as the "Tang Hand Way" or incorrectly, "Tang Fist Way". I have also seen some call it "China Hand Way".

There is not a lot of information on this title, but some believe that a simplified form of Kung Fu that started in China, and ended up very popular in Japan used this title initially. It was later changed in Japan to a different Karate title which means "Empty Hand" (as in, without weapons).

In Korean, this title represents a certain style of martial arts. From Korean, this is often romanized as "Tang Soo Do", "Tangsudo", "Dang Su Do", or "Dangsudo". The last two romanizations on that list are the official Korean government romanization, though martial arts schools tend to use other non-standard versions.


China kōng wú
Japan kuu mu
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This is "nothingness" in Buddhist context.

The first character means empty, but can also mean air or sky (air and sky have no form).

The second character means have not, no, none, not or to lack.

Together these characters reinforce each other into a word that means "absolute nothingness".

I know this is a term used in Buddhism, but I have not yet figured out the context in which it is used. I suppose it can be the fact that Buddhists believe that the world in a non-real illusion, or perhaps it's about visualizing yourself as "nothing" and therefore leaving behind your desire and worldliness.
Buddhist concepts and titles often have this element of ambiguity or rather "mystery". Therefore, such ideas can have different meanings to different people, and that's okay. If you don't get it right in this lifetime, as there will be plenty more lifetimes to master it (whatever "it" is, and if "it" really exists at all).

Soothill defines this as "Unreality, or immateriality, of things, which is defined as nothing existing of independent or self-contained nature".


China tái quán dào
Japan te kon do
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This is one of the most widespread types of martial arts in the world as well as being an Olympic sport. Taekwondo was born in Korea with influences of Chinese and Japanese styles, combined with traditional Korean combat skills. Some will define it as the "Korean art of empty-handed self-defense".

In the simplest translation, the first character means "kick", the second character can mean either "fist" or "punching" the third means "way" or "method". Altogether, you could say this is "Kick Punch Method". When heard or read in various Asian languages, all will automatically think of this famous Korean martial art. It is written the same in Japanese Kanji, Chinese, and Korean Hanja characters - so the appearance of the characters are rather universal. However, you should note that there is another way to write this in modern Korean Hangul characters which looks like the image to the right. Taekwondo Hangul Characters

We suggest the original Korean Hanja (Chinese characters) for a wall scroll, but if you really need the Hangul version, you must use master calligrapher Xing An-Ping: Order Taekwondo in Korean Hangul

Note: Taekwondo is sometimes Romanized as Tae-Kwondo, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwon-do, Taegwondo, Tae Gweon Do, Tai Kwon Do, Taikwondo, Taekwando, Tae Kwan Do and in Chinese Taiquandao, Tai Quan Dao, Taichuando, or Tai Chuan Tao.

Shotokan Karate-Do

China sōng tāo guǎn kōng shǒu dào
Japan shou tou kan kara te dou
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Shotokan Karate-Do

These Japanese Kanji make up the title for Shotokan Karate.

This should be considered a Japanese-only title. It does make sense and is pronounceable in Chinese and Korean, but only as a title for a building (perhaps a martial arts hall) surrounded by pine trees - followed by the characters for "The empty hand method" (kong shou dao / Karate-do). Also, the first two characters were simplified in both Japanese and Chinese. The third character was simplified in Chinese, but not Japanese.

Upon request, we can offer the fully traditional Chinese version, but be sure you know what you are asking for.

Note: This would be understood in Chinese and Korean Hanja by a person from those cultures who is familiar with martial arts and various schools of Japanese karate.

Drink Up! / Cheers!

China gān bēi
Japan kan pai
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Drink Up! / Cheers!

This is the common way to say "cheers" or give a toast in Chinese, Japanese and old Korean (written the same in all three languages, though pronounced differently). This is an appropriate wall scroll for a bar, pub, or other drinking area.

The first character literally means "dry" or "parched".
The second character means "cup" or "glass".

Together the meaning is to drink up (empty your glass).

Isshin Ryu Karate Do

Japan i sshin ryuu kara te dou
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Isshin Ryu Karate Do

This is the full title for Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do. The literal meaning is "one heart method empty hand way". There are also other ways you can translate this, but if you are looking for this title, you already know that.

This would make a great wall scroll for your dojo or private studio, if you study this form of Japanese (technically from Okinawa) Karate.

Because this is a specifically-Japanese title, we strongely recommend that you select our Japanese Master Calligrapher to create this artwork for you.

Five Elements

Japan chi sui ka fuu kuu
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Five Elements

This is the specifically-Japanese version of the five elements. This is a little different than the ancient or original Chinese version.

The elements are written in this order:
1. Earth / Terra / Ground
2. Water
3. Fire
4. Wind / Air
5. Sky / Emptiness / Void / Ether

Note: This set of Kanji can also be romanized as "ji sui ka fuu kuu", "jisuikafuukuu", or "jisuikafuku".

These can also be written in the order 地火風水空 (chi ka sui fuu kuu). Let me know when you place your order if you want the Kanji to be in this character order.

Humble / Modesty / Humility

China qiān xū
Japan ken kyo
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Humble / Modesty / Humility

In Japanese, first Kanji means "self-effacing", "humble oneself", "condescend", "be modest". The second means "void" or "emptiness".

This is the most common way to say humble or modest in Japanese without a derogatory meaning (some other words suggest weakness, but this version holds a better humble meaning).

See Also...  Moderation

Check dictionary for empty

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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The scroll that I am holding in this picture is a "medium size"
4-character wall scroll.
As you can see, it is a great size to hang on your wall.
(We also offer custom wall scrolls in larger sizes)

A professional Chinese Calligrapher

Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.

There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.

Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.

A high-ranked Chinese master calligrapher that I met in Zhongwei

The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.

If your search is not successful, just post your request on our forum, and we'll be happy to do research or translation for any reasonable request.

Successful Chinese Character and Japanese Kanji calligraphy searches within the last few hours...


With so many searches, we had to upgrade to our own Linux server.
Of course, only one in 500 searches results in a purchase - Hey buy a wall scroll!!!

See: Our list of specifically Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls. And, check out Our list of specifically old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

The following table is only helpful for those studying Chinese (or Japanese), and perhaps helps search engines to find this page when someone enters Romanized Chinese or Japanese

Romaji(Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Nothingness / Empty / Void虚空
xū kōng
xu kong
hsü k`ung
xu1 kong1
hsü kung
Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand空手拳法
kara te ken pou
kara te ken po
kōng shǒu quán fǎ
kong shou quan fa
k`ung shou ch`üan fa
kong1 shou3 quan2 fa3
kung shou chüan fa
kara te dou
kara te do
kōng shǒu dào
kong shou dao
k`ung shou tao
kong1 shou3 dao4
kung shou tao
Nothing / Nothingness
True Emptiness Yields Transcendent Existence眞空妙有
shin kuu myou u
shin ku myo u
zhēn kōng miào yǒu
zhen kong miao you
chen k`ung miao yu
zhen1 kong1 miao4 you3
chen kung miao yu
Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate拳法唐手
ken pou kara te
ken po kara te
quán fǎ táng shǒu
quan fa tang shou
ch`üan fa t`ang shou
quan2 fa3 tang2 shou3
chüan fa tang shou
Humble / Modest谦虚
ken kyo
qiān xū
qian xu
ch`ien hsü
qian1 xu1
chien hsü
Sky / Ether / Void / Emptiness / Unreality
kuu / kara / sora / ron
ku / kara / sora / ron
Jujitsu / Jujutsu柔术
juu jutsu
ju jutsu
róu shù
rou shu
jou shu
rou2 shu4
Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do唐手道
kara te do
táng shǒu dào
tang shou dao
t`ang shou tao
tang2 shou3 dao4
tang shou tao
kuu mu
ku mu
kōng wú
kong wu
k`ung wu
kong1 wu2
kung wu
te kon do
tái quán dào
tai quan dao
t`ai ch`üan tao
tai2 quan2 dao4
tai chüan tao
Shotokan Karate-Do松涛館空手道
shou tou kan kara te dou
sho to kan kara te do
sōng tāo guǎn kōng shǒu dào
song tao guan kong shou dao
sung t`ao kuan k`ung shou tao
song1 tao1 guan3 kong1 shou3 dao4
sung tao kuan kung shou tao
Drink Up! / Cheers!乾杯
kan pai
gān bēi
gan bei
kan pei
gan1 bei1
Isshin Ryu Karate Do一心流空手道
i sshin ryuu kara te dou
i shin ryu kara te do
Five Elements地水火风空
chi sui ka fuu kuu
chi sui ka fu ku
Humble / Modesty / Humility謙虚
ken kyo
qiān xū
qian xu
ch`ien hsü
qian1 xu1
chien hsü

Some people may refer to this entry as Empty Kanji, Empty Characters, Empty in Mandarin Chinese, Empty Characters, Empty in Chinese Writing, Empty in Japanese Writing, Empty in Asian Writing, Empty Ideograms, Chinese Empty symbols, Empty Hieroglyphics, Empty Glyphs, Empty in Chinese Letters, Empty Hanzi, Empty in Japanese Kanji, Empty Pictograms, Empty in the Chinese Written-Language, or Empty in the Japanese Written-Language.

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