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Great Man in Chinese / Japanese...

Buy a Great Man calligraphy wall scroll here!

Start your custom "Great Man" project by clicking the button next to your favorite "Great Man" title below...

  1. Man of Character
  2. Man of Remarkable Character...
  3. Work Unselfishly for the Common Good
  4. No Fear
  5. Wisdom from Hard Knocks
  6. Mark the boat to find the lost sword...
  7. A sly rabbit has three openings to its den
  8. Hero
  9. Kung Fu / Gong Fu
10. Benevolence
11. Hua Mulan
12. Profound / Powerful Words
13. Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks

Man of Character

China dà zhàng fu
Japan dai jou bu
Man of Character

大丈夫 is a Chinese, Korean, and Japanese title that means, a manly man, a man of character, a great man, or fine figure of a man.

In Japanese, this can also be used to mean safe, all right, alright, OK, sure, or "no problem." Basically, used in Japanese for something of that is undoubted or very acceptable.

Man of Remarkable Character
Hero

Japan ketsubutsu
Man of Remarkable Character / Hero

This Japanese title can mean, "great man," "heroic figure," or "remarkable character." You would be giving someone a great honor by presenting this wall scroll to them as a gift.

Work Unselfishly for the Common Good

China kè jǐ fèng gōng
Work Unselfishly for the Common Good

This can also mean: "Place Strict Standards on Oneself in Public Service."
This Chinese proverb is often used to express how one should act as a government official. Most of us wish our public officials would hold themselves to higher standards. I wish I could send this scroll, along with the meaning to every member of Congress, and the President (or if I was from the UK, all the members of Parliament, and the PM)

The story behind this ancient Chinese idiom:
A man named Cai Zun was born in China a little over 2000 years ago. In 24 AD, he joined an uprising led by Liu Xiu who later became the emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Later, the new emperor put Cai Zun in charge of the military court. Cai Zun exercised his power in strict accordance with military law, regardless of the offender's rank or background. He even ordered the execution of one of the emperor's close servants after the servant committed a serious crime.

Cai Zun led a simple life but put great demands on himself to do all things in an honorable way. The emperor rewarded him for his honest character and honorable nature by promoting him to the rank of General and granting him the title of Marquis.

Whenever Cai Zun would receive an award, he would give credit to his men and share the reward with them.
Cai Zun was always praised by historians who found many examples of his selfless acts that served the public interest.
Sometime, long ago in history, people began to refer to Cai Zun as "ke ji feng gong."


See Also:  Unselfish | Selflessness | Altruism

No Fear

(four-character version)
China yǒng zhě wú wèi
No Fear

勇者無畏 is a complete sentence that means literally "Brave People Have No Fear" or "A Brave Person Has No Fear" (plural or singular is not implied). We translated "No Fear" into the two variations that you will find on our website. Then we checked Chinese Google and found that others had translated "No Fear" in the exact same ways. Pick the one you like best. A great gift for your fearless friend.


See Also:  Fear No Man

Wisdom from Hard Knocks

The school of hard knocks
China ái yī quán dé yī zhāo ái shí quán biàn zhū gě
Wisdom from Hard Knocks

This Chinese proverb literally translates as: Receive on blow, [and one] learns a lesson; Receive ten blows, [and one] becomes a great Zhuge [Liang]. You must first understand that a man named Zhuge Liang was one of the great strategists and philosophers in Chinese history. He's known as a man of great wisdom.

Figuratively, this phrase means:
One can learn much from failure or "hard knocks."

Mark the boat to find the lost sword
Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world

China kè zhōu qiú jiàn
Japan kokushuukyuuken
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world

This originally-Chinese proverb is a warning to people that things are always in a state of change. Thus, you must take that into account, and not depend on the old ways, or a way that may have worked in the past but is no longer valid.

This idiom/proverb comes from the following story:
A man was traveling in a ferry boat across a river. With him, he carried a valuable and treasured sword. Along the way, the man became overwhelmed and intoxicated by the beautiful view, and accidentally dropped his prized sword into the river. Thinking quickly, he pulled out a knife, and marked on the rail of the boat where exactly he has lost his sword.

When the boat arrived on the other side of the river, the man jumped out of the boat and searched for his sword right under where he'd made the mark. Of course, the boat had moved a great distance since he made the mark, and thus, he could not find the sword.

While this man may seem foolhardy, we have to take a great lesson from this parable: Circumstances change, so one should use methods that can handle the change. In modern China, this is used in business to mean that one should not depend on old business models for a changing market.


This proverb dates back to the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC) of the territory now known as China. It has spread and is somewhat known in Japan and Korea.

A sly rabbit has three openings to its den

-or- The crafty rabbit has three different entrances to its lair
China jiǎo tù sān kū
A sly rabbit has three openings to its den

This speaks to the cunning character of a sly rabbit. Such a rabbit will not have just one hole but rather a few entrances and exits from his liar.

About 2,250 years ago a very rich man told his assistant to go and buy something wonderful that he did not yet posses. He was a man that already had everything, so the assistant went to a local village that owed a great deal of money to the rich man. The assistant told the village elders that all debts were forgiven. All the villagers rejoiced and praised the rich man's name. The assistant returned to the rich man and told him he had purchased "benevolence" for him. The rich man was mildly amused but perhaps a bit confused by the action.

Some time later, the rich man fell from the favor of the Emperor, and was wiped out without a penny to his name. One day he was walking aimlessly and stumbled into the village in which the debts had been forgiven. The villagers recognized the man and welcomed him with open arms, clothed, fed, and gave him a place to live.

Without trying, the man had become like the sly and cunning rabbit. When his exit was blocked, he had another hole to emerge from - and was reborn. This story and idiom comes from a book titled "The Amendment" - it's unclear whether this man actually existed or not. But the book did propel this idiom into common use in China.

Still today this idiom about the rabbit is used in China when suggesting "backup plans" alternate methods, and anyone with a good escape plan.

Hero

China yīng xióng
Japan ei yuu
Hero

英雄 is the best way to write hero in Chinese and Japanese - especially for calligraphy. 英雄 is also the name of the Chinese movie titled Hero starring Jet Li.

The first character means brave (it can also mean British or English but not in this case).
The second character means heroic but also suggests a male person.
My Japanese dictionary also defines this as "a great man."

Kung Fu / Gong Fu

China gōng fu
HK gung fu
Japan kan fu / ku fu
Kung Fu / Gong Fu

One of the most famous types of martial arts in the world - and not just because of Bruce Lee.

Some translate the meaning as "Accomplishment by Great Effort." I think this is partially true but directly translated it literally means "Merit/Achievement/Accomplishment Man." The word "fu" can sometimes mean "husband" or "porter" but in this case, it can only mean "man." However, few in China will think "man" when they hear the word "Gong Fu" spoken.

This term is also used for things other than martial arts. In fact, it's used to refer to a person with excellent skills in crafts that require a great deal of effort such as cooking, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy.

What a lot of people don't know is that the spelling of "Kung Fu" was actually taken from the old Wade Giles form of Romanization. Using this method, the sounds of the English "G" and "K" were both written as "K" and an apostrophe after the "K" told you it was supposed to sound like a "G." Nobody in the west knew this rule, so most people pronounce it with a "K-sound." And so Gong Fu will always be Kung Fu for most westerners.

Also, just to educate you a little more, the "O" in "Gong" has a sound like the English word "oh."

The popular Chinese dish "Kung Pao Chicken" suffers from the same problem. It should actually be "Gong Bao Chicken."

Historical note: Many will claim that Kung Fu was invented by the monks of the Shaolin monastery. This fact is argued in both directions by scholars of Chinese history. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Shaolin Monks brought the original fame to Kung Fu many generations ago.


Japanese note: While most Japanese martial artists will recognize these characters, Katakana is more often used to approximate the pronunciation of "Kung Fu" with "カンフー." Some will argue as to whether this should be considered a Japanese word at all.


See Also:  Bruce Lee

Benevolence

China rén
Japan jin
Benevolence

Beyond "benevolence" this character can be also be defined as "charity" or "mercy" depending on context.

The deeper meaning suggests that one should pay alms to the poor, care for those in trouble, and take care of his fellow man (or woman).

仁 is one of the five tenets of Confucius. In fact, it is a subject in which Confucius spent a great deal of time explaining to his disciples.

I have also seen this benevolent-related word translated as perfect virtue, selflessness, love for humanity, humaneness, goodness, good will, or simply "love" in the non-romantic form.

仁 is so important to me that I named my second daughter with this character. Her name is "Renni" which means "Benevolent Girl."
-Gary.


This is also a virtue of the Samurai Warrior
See our page with just Code of the Samurai / Bushido here


See Also:  Altruism | Kindness | Charity | Confucius

Hua Mulan

China huā mù lán
Hua Mulan

花木蘭 is the name of the famous Chinese woman warrior Hua Mulan.

She was made famous in the west by Disney's animated movie, "Mulan."

Most of the historical information about her comes from an ancient poem. It starts with a concerned Mulan, as she is told a man from each family is to serve conscription in the army. Her father is too old, and her brother is too young. Mulan decides to take the place of her father. After twelve years of war, the army returns and the best warriors are awarded great posts in the government and riches. Mulan turns down all offers, and asks only for a good horse for the long trip home. When Mulan greets visiting comrades wearing her old clothes, they are shocked to find the warrior they rode into battle with for years was actually a woman.

Profound / Powerful Words

China rù mù sān fēn
Profound / Powerful Words

These four characters together translate in English to a strong form of "profound" or "written with a forceful hand."

But there is much more to the story...

The deep meaning behind this proverb comes from a man named Wan Xizhi who lived in the third century.

He was a great writer and calligrapher whose writing style influenced generations of other writers and calligraphers.

He once wrote words on a piece of wood to be taken to an engraver.
When the engraver began to carve the characters into the wood, he found that Wang Xizhi's writing had penetrated the wood about 3/8 of an inch.

Thus people believed that his words were so powerful, and so profound this it caused the ink from his brush to penetrate the wood deeply.

The proverb literally means "penetrated wood three fen" (fen is an ancient Chinese measurement a little over to 1/8 of an inch or almost 4mm).

Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks

Persistence to overcome all challenges
China bǎi zhé bù náo
Japan hyaku setsu su tou
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks

This Chinese proverb means "Be undaunted in the face of repeated setbacks." More directly-translated, it reads, "[Overcome] a hundred setbacks, without flinching." 百折不撓 is of Chinese origin but is commonly used in Japanese, and somewhat in Korean (same characters, different pronunciation).

This proverb comes from a long, and occasionally tragic story of a man that lived sometime around 25-220 AD. His name was Qiao Xuan and he never stooped to flattery but remained an upright person at all times. He fought to expose corruption of higher-level government officials at great risk to himself.

Then when he was at a higher level in the Imperial Court, bandits were regularly capturing hostages and demanding ransoms. But when his own son was captured, he was so focused on his duty to the Emperor and common good that he sent a platoon of soldiers to raid the bandits' hideout, and stop them once and for all even at the risk of his own son's life. While all of the bandits were arrested in the raid, they killed Qiao Xuan's son at first sight of the raiding soldiers.

Near the end of his career a new Emperor came to power, and Qiao Xuan reported to him that one of his ministers was bullying the people and extorting money from them. The new Emperor refused to listen to Qiao Xuan and even promoted the corrupt Minister. Qiao Xuan was so disgusted that in protest he resigned his post as minister (something almost never done) and left for his home village.

His tombstone reads "Bai Zhe Bu Nao" which is now a proverb used in Chinese culture to describe a person of strength will who puts up stubborn resistance against great odds.

My Chinese-English dictionary defines these 4 characters as, "keep on fighting in spite of all setbacks," "be undaunted by repeated setbacks" and "be indomitable."

Our translator says it can mean, "never give up" in modern Chinese.

Although the first two characters are translated correctly as "repeated setbacks," the literal meaning is "100 setbacks" or "a rope that breaks 100 times." The last two characters can mean "do not yield" or "do not give up."
Most Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people will not take this absolutely literal meaning but will instead understand it as the title suggests above. If you want a single big word definition, it would be indefatigability, indomitableness, persistence, or unyielding.


See Also:  Tenacity | Fortitude | Strength | Perseverance | Persistence

Search for Great Man in my Japanese & Chinese Dictionary




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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...

Title CharactersRomaji(Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Man of Character大丈夫dai jou bu / daijoubu / dai jo bu / daijobudà zhàng fu
da4 zhang4 fu5
da zhang fu
dazhangfu
ta chang fu
tachangfu
Man of Remarkable Character
Hero
傑物
杰物
ketsubutsu
Work Unselfishly for the Common Good克己奉公kè jǐ fèng gōng
ke4 ji3 feng4 gong1
ke ji feng gong
kejifenggong
k`o chi feng kung
kochifengkung
ko chi feng kung
No Fear勇者無畏
勇者无畏
yǒng zhě wú wèi
yong3 zhe3 wu2 wei4
yong zhe wu wei
yongzhewuwei
yung che wu wei
yungchewuwei
Wisdom from Hard Knocks挨一拳得一招挨十拳變諸葛
挨一拳得一招挨十拳变诸葛
ái yī quán dé yī zhāo ái shí quán biàn zhū gě
ai2 yi1 quan2 de2 yi1 zhao1 ai2 shi2 quan2 bian4 zhu1 ge3
ai yi quan de yi zhao ai shi quan bian zhu ge
ai i ch`üan te i chao ai shih ch`üan pien chu ko
ai i chüan te i chao ai shih chüan pien chu ko
Mark the boat to find the lost sword
Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world
刻舟求劍
刻舟求剑
kokushuukyuuken
kokushukyuken
kè zhōu qiú jiàn
ke4 zhou1 qiu2 jian4
ke zhou qiu jian
kezhouqiujian
k`o chou ch`iu chien
kochouchiuchien
ko chou chiu chien
A sly rabbit has three openings to its den狡兔三窟jiǎo tù sān kū
jiao3 tu4 san1 ku1
jiao tu san ku
jiaotusanku
chiao t`u san k`u
chiaotusanku
chiao tu san ku
Hero英雄ei yuu / eiyuu / ei yu / eiyuyīng xióng
ying1 xiong2
ying xiong
yingxiong
ying hsiung
yinghsiung
Kung Fu
Gong Fu
功夫kan fu / ku fu
kanfu / kufu
gōng fu / gong1 fu / gong fu / gongfukung fu / kungfu
Benevolencejinrén / ren2 / renjen
Hua Mulan花木蘭
花木兰
huā mù lán
hua1 mu4 lan2
hua mu lan
huamulan
Profound
Powerful Words
入木三分rù mù sān fēn
ru4 mu4 san1 fen1
ru mu san fen
rumusanfen
ju mu san fen
jumusanfen
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks百折不撓
百折不挠
hyaku setsu su tou
hyakusetsusutou
hyaku setsu su to
hyakusetsusuto
bǎi zhé bù náo
bai3 zhe2 bu4 nao2
bai zhe bu nao
baizhebunao
pai che pu nao
paichepunao
In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.



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All of our calligraphy wall scrolls are handmade.

When the calligrapher finishes creating your artwork, it is taken to my art mounting workshop in Beijing where a wall scroll is made by hand from a combination of silk, rice paper, and wood.
After we create your wall scroll, it takes at least two weeks for air mail delivery from Beijing to you.

Allow a few weeks for delivery. Rush service speeds it up by a week or two for $10!

When you select your calligraphy, you'll be taken to another page where you can choose various custom options.


A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size"
single-character wall scroll.
We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.

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.


Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

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