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Teacher in Chinese / Japanese...

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Quick links to words on this page...

  1. Teacher / Master / Old Sage
  2. Sensei / Master / Teacher / Mister
  3. Respected Teacher
  4. Past experience is the teacher for the future.
  5. When Three People Gather,...
  6. Always with a Book in Hand
  7. The Sea of Knowledge Has No Limits
  8. River of Literacy, Sea of Learning
  9. There is no royal road to learning
10. We are not born with knowledge,...
11. Fatherly Master / Sifu / Shi Fu / Shifu


Teacher / Master / Old Sage

China lǎo shī
Teacher / Master / Old Sage

老師 directly translates as, "old teacher," "old master," or "old sage."

Together, they are understood as "teacher." When you think about that, also realize that with age comes respect in Asian cultures. So calling someone old is actually a term of respect (not like the way we mean it in English). You could actually replace "old" with "respected" and be closer to the way this is meant in Chinese.

Teachers, in general, are more respected by their students and the population in China. When I was a teacher in China, I certainly felt that.

This term is also used for masters of certain fields. For instance, a master calligrapher would respectfully be addressed as "teacher." In fact, in this case, "master" and "teacher" are synonymous.

Other artists (especially those are famous or accomplished) should be addressed with this term. Also, some schools of martial arts use this term of respect for their masters/teachers/instructors.


This title is recognized in Japanese as "roushi" with the same meaning but it's rarely used in Japan.

Sensei / Master / Teacher / Mister

China xiān shēng
Japan sen sei
Sensei / Master / Teacher / Mister

If you've taken even a single karate class in your life, you know this term. This is sensei, which is associated in the west with a master or instructor of karate, aikido, judo, and other Japanese martial arts.

In reality, this is a term of respect for almost any professional or skilled person (doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc). In some cases, it is used for musicians and artists who have achieved a certain level of fame, skill, or accomplishment.

It should be noted that this is also a courtesy title in Chinese but more like calling someone "mister" or "gentleman." It doesn't really have the "master" or "teacher" meaning in Chinese - see our Chinese "Master / Sifu / Shi Fu" entry if your audience is Chinese.

In Korean Hanja, this means teacher, instructor, schoolmaster, or schoolmistress.

This entry is more for educational purposes. This is kind of a strange thing to put on a wall scroll. It's a title that is used more orally to show respect, rather than something written in calligraphy. If you feel that it is appropriate in your circumstances, we are very willing to create a piece of sensei Japanese calligraphy artwork for you.

Respected Teacher

China zūn shī
Japan son shi
Respected Teacher

This means, "respected teacher," "revered master," or "guru" in Japanese and Chinese.

This is a nice gift for a revered teacher in your life whose knowledge and mentoring has meant a lot to you.

Past experience is the teacher for the future.

Past events not forgotten serve as teachers for later events.
China qián shì bú wàng hòu shí zhī shī
Past experience is the teacher for the future.

The most literal translation to English of this ancient Chinese proverb is:
"Past events not forgotten serve as teachers for later events."

However, it's been translated several ways:
Don't forget past events, they can guide you in future.
Benefit from past experience.
Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide for the future.
Past calamity is my teacher.
A good memory for the past is a teacher for the future.
The remembrance of the past is the teacher of the future.
If one remembers the lessons of the past; They will serve as a guide to avoid mistakes in the future.

The origin:
This proverb comes from the 5th century B.C. just before the Warring States Period in the territory now known as China.
The head of the State of Jin, Zhi Bo, seized power in a coup. He did this with help from the armies of the State of Han and Wei. Instead of being grateful for the help from Han and Wei, he treacherously took the land of Han and Wei. Never satisfied, Zhi Bo employed the armies of Han and Wei to attack and seize the State of Zhao.

The king of Zhao took advice from his minister Zhang Mengtan and secretly contacted the Han and Wei armies to reverse their plans and attack the army of Zhi Bo instead. The plan was successful, and the State of Zhao was not only saved but was set to become a powerful kingdom in the region.

Zhang Mengtan immediately submitted his resignation to a confused king of Zhao. When asked why, Zhang Mengtan said, "I've done my duty to save my kingdom but looking back at past experience, I know sovereign kings are never satisfied with the power or land at hand. They will join others and fight for more power and more land. I must learn from past experiences, as those experiences are the teachers of future events."
The king could not dispute the logic in that statement and accepted Zhang Mengtan's resignation.

For generations, the State of Zhao continued to fight for power and land until finally being defeated and decimated by the State of Qin (which lead to the birth of the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C.).

When Three People Gather,
One Becomes a Teacher

China sān rén xíng bì yǒu wǒ shī
When Three People Gather, / One Becomes a Teacher

This literally means, "when three people meet, one becomes the teacher."

This famous Chinese philosophy suggests that when people come together, they can always learn from each other.

One person must be the teacher and others learn. And in turn, the others become the teachers of the knowledge they posses.

It is important to remember that we all have something to teach, and we all have something to learn as well.

Always with a Book in Hand

China shǒu bù shì juàn
Always with a Book in Hand

This Chinese proverb literally means, "always with a book in hand."

It's a proverb said of a hardworking scholar or student.

This may refer to a student or scholar who is diligent and hardworking. It's a great gift for a student or scholar who loves books.

The Sea of Knowledge Has No Limits

China xué hǎi wú yá
The Sea of Knowledge Has No Limits

This Chinese proverb reads, "sea of learning, no horizon."

Colloquially, it means there are no limits to what one still has left to learn.

This would be the Chinese equivalent to the quote from Hippocrates, "ars longa, vita brevis," meaning, "it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one's expertise."


See Also:  Learning Is Eternal

River of Literacy, Sea of Learning

China wén jiāng xué hǎi
River of Literacy, Sea of Learning

This Chinese proverb reads, "river of literacy, sea of learning"

This suggests that there is a lot to learn in the world, with an eternal amount of reading and things to study.

This is one way to translate the quote from Hippocrates, "ars longa, vita brevis," meaning, "it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one's expertise."


See Also:  Learning Is Eternal

There is no royal road to learning

China qiú xué wú tǎn tú
There is no royal road to learning

This Chinese proverb reads, "There is no royal road to learning."

This suggests that the path of learning can never be smooth, there will be difficulties and troubles along the way.


See Also:  Learning Is Eternal

We are not born with knowledge,
how does one achieve maturity?

China rén fēi shēng ér zhī zhī zhě shú néng wú huò
We are not born with knowledge, / how does one achieve maturity?

This figuratively means, "Without a teacher, how can we learn/mature?"

This is a philosophic pondering by Han Yu, a Tang Dynasty essayist and philosopher (618-907 A.D.). This Chinese proverb can be translated as, "Knowledge is not innate to man, how can we overcome doubt?" or, "We are not born with knowledge, how does one achieve maturity?."

This infers that we need the guidance of a teacher if we wish to learn, mature, and become better.

Fatherly Master / Sifu / Shi Fu / Shifu

Martial Arts Teacher
China shī fu
HK si fu
Japan shi fu
Fatherly Master / Sifu / Shi Fu / Shifu

This means master in Chinese (occasionally used in Korean Hanja and Japanese as well). In the context of Martial Arts, this is the master and teacher who instructs students.

The second character by itself means father. Thus, you get the "Fatherly Master" translation. There's an old Chinese saying that goes something like, "One who is your teacher for one day, is your father for life."

Language notes: I've often seen this romanized as "sifu," this is actually the Cantonese romanization. In Mandarin Chinese, it's "shifu." The pronunciation in Mandarin is actually like "sure foo" (using typical English pronunciation). There's an "R-sound" in there, which is not obvious from the romanization. Many martial arts studios incorrectly pronounce this like "she foo" (which is actually the Japanese pronunciation). In Cantonese, it sounds like "Sea foo" (almost like "sea food," minus the "d" on the end).

This is kind of a weird selection for a calligraphy wall scroll, this entry is more for educational purposes. But you are welcome to buy it if you feel it's appropriate for your circumstances.

Search for Teacher 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
Teacher
Master
Old Sage
老師
老师
lǎo shī / lao3 shi1 / lao shi / laoshilao shih / laoshih
Sensei
Master
Teacher
Mister
先生sen sei / senseixiān shēng
xian1 sheng1
xian sheng
xiansheng
hsien sheng
hsiensheng
Respected Teacher尊師
尊师
son shi / sonshizūn shī / zun1 shi1 / zun shi / zunshitsun shih / tsunshih
Past experience is the teacher for the future.前事不忘后事之師
前事不忘后事之师
qián shì bú wàng hòu shí zhī shī
qian2 shi4 bu2 wang4 hou4 shi2 zhi1 shi1
qian shi bu wang hou shi zhi shi
ch`ien shih pu wang hou shih chih shih
chien shih pu wang hou shih chih shih
When Three People Gather, One Becomes a Teacher三人行必有我師
三人行必有我师
sān rén xíng bì yǒu wǒ shī
san1 ren2 xing2 bi4 you3 wo3 shi1
san ren xing bi you wo shi
sanrenxingbiyouwoshi
san jen hsing pi yu wo shih
sanjenhsingpiyuwoshih
Always with a Book in Hand手不釋卷
手不释卷
shǒu bù shì juàn
shou3 bu4 shi4 juan4
shou bu shi juan
shoubushijuan
shou pu shih chüan
shoupushihchüan
The Sea of Knowledge Has No Limits學海無涯
学海无涯
xué hǎi wú yá
xue2 hai3 wu2 ya2
xue hai wu ya
xuehaiwuya
hsüeh hai wu ya
hsüehhaiwuya
River of Literacy, Sea of Learning文江學海
文江学海
wén jiāng xué hǎi
wen2 jiang1 xue2 hai3
wen jiang xue hai
wenjiangxuehai
wen chiang hsüeh hai
wenchianghsüehhai
There is no royal road to learning求學無坦途
求学无坦途
qiú xué wú tǎn tú
qiu2 xue2 wu2 tan3 tu2
qiu xue wu tan tu
qiuxuewutantu
ch`iu hsüeh wu t`an t`u
chiuhsüehwutantu
chiu hsüeh wu tan tu
We are not born with knowledge, how does one achieve maturity?人非生而知之者熟能無惑rén fēi shēng ér zhī zhī zhě shú néng wú huò
ren2 fei1 sheng1 er2 zhi1 zhi1 zhe3 shu2 neng2 wu2 huo4
ren fei sheng er zhi zhi zhe shu neng wu huo
jen fei sheng erh chih chih che shu neng wu huo
Fatherly Master
Sifu
Shi Fu
Shifu
師父
师父
shi fu / shifushī fu / shi1 fu / shi fu / shifushih fu / shihfu
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 Teacher Kanji, Teacher Characters, Teacher in Mandarin Chinese, Teacher Characters, Teacher in Chinese Writing, Teacher in Japanese Writing, Teacher in Asian Writing, Teacher Ideograms, Chinese Teacher symbols, Teacher Hieroglyphics, Teacher Glyphs, Teacher in Chinese Letters, Teacher Hanzi, Teacher in Japanese Kanji, Teacher Pictograms, Teacher in the Chinese Written-Language, or Teacher in the Japanese Written-Language.