Death in Chinese or Japanese Calligraphy

Death is kind of a taboo thing in Asian cultures, so we can only offer a limited number of death-related titles.
Please see Death in our dictionary for more death-related Chinese and Japanese words.


  1. Death Before Dishonor

  2. Death Before Surrender

  3. Death Before Dishonor

  4. Death with Dignity

  5. Death Before Surrender

  6. Honorable Death - No Surrender

  7. Grim Reaper / God of Death

  8. Return From Death’s Door

  9. Sword of Death

10. Assassin

11. Not Long for this World

12. Die Without Regret

13. Eternal Life / Everlasting Life / Immortality

14. Eternal Life / Future Life

15. Impermanence

16. Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher

17. Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing

18. Live Free or Die

19. New Life

20. Phoenix Rise from the Ashes

21. Re-Birth / Renaissance

22. Resurrection / Re-Birth

23. Rehabilitation / Rebirth

24. Reincarnation

25. Reincarnation / Transmigration of Souls

26. Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth


Death Before Dishonor

Better to be broken jade than unbroken pottery
níng wéi yù suì
Death Before Dishonor Scroll

寧為玉碎 is the short version of a longer Chinese proverb which means, "rather be shattered piece of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery".

寧為玉碎 just say the "rather be a broken piece of jade" part (the second half is implied - everyone in China knows this idiom).

A little more explanation:
Death is implied with the "broken" meaning. Jade is one of the most precious materials in Chinese history, and in this case is compared with one's honor and self-worth. Pottery is just something you eat off of, it has no deep value, just as a person who has lost their honor, or had none to begin with.
Thus, this means, "better to die with honor than to live in shame" or words to that effect.

寧為玉碎 is often translated in English as "Death Before Dishonor", the famous military slogan.

I would also compare this to the English proverb, "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".

Death Before Dishonor

Better to be broken jade than unbroken pottery
níng wéi yù suì bù wéi wǎ quán
Death Before Dishonor Scroll

寧為玉碎不為瓦全 is the long version of a Chinese proverb which means, "rather be shattered piece of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery".

A little more explanation:
Death is implied with the "broken" meaning. Jade is one of the most precious materials in Chinese history, and in this case is compared with one's honor and self-worth. Pottery is just something you eat off of, it has no deep value, just as a person who has lost their honor, or had none to begin with.
Thus, this means, "better to die with honor than to live in shame" or words to that effect.

寧為玉碎不為瓦全 is often translated in English as "Death Before Dishonor", the famous military slogan.

I would also compare this to the English proverb, "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".


This is an idiom. It therefore doesn’t directly say exactly what it means. If you think about the English idiom, "The grass is always greener," it does not directly say "jealousy" or "envy" but everyone knows that it is implied.

Death Before Surrender

Rather die than compromise
níng sǐ bù qū
Death Before Surrender Scroll

寧死不屈 is often translated as "Death Before Dishonor".

The literal translation is more like, "Better die than compromise". The last two characters mean "not to bend" or "not to bow down". Some might even say that it means "not to surrender". Thus, you could say this proverb means, "Better to die than live on my knees" or simply "no surrender" (with the real idea being that you would rather die than surrender).

Death Before Dishonor

You can die or kill, but never dishonor or disgrace yourself
kě shā bù kě rǔ
Death Before Dishonor Scroll

This almost directly matches the idea of "Death Before Dishonor", while also being an ancient Chinese proverb.

The direct meaning is, "[you] can die/kill [but you] cannot [allow] dishonor/disgrace [upon yourself]". Chinese grammar, and especially ancient grammar, is a little different than English. Not nearly as many articles are needed, and a lot is implied.

There are a lot of ways to express ideas similar to "Death Before Dishonor" in Chinese, and I would rate this one in the top two.

Death Before Dishonor

A soldier can die or kill, but never dishonor or disgrace himself
shì kě shā bù kě rǔ
Death Before Dishonor Scroll

This almost directly matches the military idea of "Death Before Dishonor", while also being an ancient Chinese proverb.

The direct meaning is, "[A] soldier/warrior can die/kill [but he/she] cannot [allow] dishonor/disgrace [upon himself/herself]". Chinese grammar, and especially ancient grammar, is a little different than English. Not nearly as many articles are needed, and a lot is implied.

There are a lot of ways to express ideas similar to "Death Before Dishonor" in Chinese, and I would rate this one in the top two.

This is the original form of this proverb with the character for "soldier/warrior" at the beginning. Most of the time, this character is dropped, and this becomes a five-character proverb (the soldier/warrior part is implied, even without the character being present in the proverb). We also offer the shorter version.

Death Before Dishonor

fu mei yo yo ri shi
Death Before Dishonor Scroll

不名誉より死 is the Japanese version of "Death Before Dishonor".

Japanese grammar is a bit different than English, so this really means something like "Rather die than to be dishonored". However, the "dishonor" is the first three Kanji, and death is the last Kanji. There are two Hiragana (より) which indicate the preference is death when comparing dishonor to death.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Death with Dignity

son gen shi
Death with Dignity Scroll

尊厳死 is not a good choice for a wall scroll unless you have a very specific and personal reason.

This was added at the request of a customer.

尊厳死 means "death with dignity" or "natural death" (as opposed to extending one's life unnaturally with life support).

Death Before Surrender

nìng sǐ bù xiáng
Death Before Surrender Scroll

This ancient Chinese proverb can be translated as "Rather to die than surrender", "Prefer death over surrender", "To prefer death to surrender", or simply "No surrender".

寧死不降 is probably the closest proverb to the English proverb "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".

Honorable Death - No Surrender

gyokusai shugi
Honorable Death - No Surrender Scroll

This ancient Japanese proverb can be translated as "The principle of honorable death and no surrender", or simply "No surrender".

If you directly translate this, you get something that means "Doctrine of suicide", or "Ideology of honorable death".

玉砕主義 is a specifically-Japanese proverb that embraces the long history of honorable suicide or self-sacrifice for honor in Japanese culture.

Grim Reaper / God of Death

sǐ shén
shinigami
Grim Reaper / God of Death Scroll

死神 is the title of the mythological figure (often called the Grim Reaper in western culture) in charge of taking the souls of those who die.

This title can be translated directly as "god of death" or "spirit of death". The first character literally means "death" and the second means "spirit" or "god".

死神 is a very strange title for a calligraphy wall scroll. I'm not even sure if my calligraphers will write it, as it has some bad superstitious feelings attached to it.

Return From Death’s Door

jué chǔ féng shēng
Return From Death’s Door Scroll

絕處逢生 is a Chinese proverb/idiom that talks of coming back from death's door, or an unexpected rescue from danger.

Figuratively, this can be to recover from a seemingly impossible situation, or to find a way out of a predicament.

If you have survived from a near-death experience, or serious illness, this might be an appropriate wall scroll for you.

Sword of Death

satsu jin ken
Sword of Death Scroll

殺人剣 is a Japanese title for "Death Sword", "Life Taking Sword" or "satsujinken". 殺人剣 is the opposite of katsujinken, or the "life saving sword". This title is not as commonly used in Japanese but pairs well when hung with katsujinken.

The first two Kanji are a word that translates as homicide; to murder; to kill (a person). 殺人剣 is specifically to kill a person (as the second character means person or human) as opposed to an animal, etc.

The last Kanji is the Japanese variant of the originally-Chinese character for sword.


See Also:  Katsujinken

Assassin

cì kè
shikaku / shikyaku
Assassin Scroll

刺客 is the most sophisticated way to write "assassin" in Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

The unsophisticated way just means murderer.

Not Long for this World

fēng zhú cán nián
Not Long for this World Scroll

This phrase means "Old and ailing with little time left" or "Not long for this world".
There is a real suggestion here that someone will die soon.

This was added by special request of a customer, and is perhaps, not the most positive phrase that you could put on a wall scroll.

This would be the most offensive possible gift to give to an older person - please do not do that!

Die Without Regret

sǐ ér wú huǐ
Die Without Regret Scroll

死而無悔 is how to say "die with no regrets" in Mandarin Chinese.

This proverb comes from the Analects of Confucius.


See Also:  No Regrets

Eternal Life / Everlasting Life / Immortality

yǒng shēng
eisei
Eternal Life / Everlasting Life / Immortality Scroll

These are the last two words from John 3:16 in the Chinese Union Bible.

Although not specifically Christian, this is the way to express ever-lasting life or eternal life in Chinese.

In Japanese, this can either mean eternal life or immortality.


See Also:  Eternity | Rebirth | Reincarnation | Immortality

Eternal Life / Future Life

lái shì
rai-se
Eternal Life / Future Life Scroll

來世 can be used in many different ways.

It is often used to express the next life (life in heaven or wherever your soul is bound for). So it does have a religious overtone. However, it can also be used to express your life in the future - perhaps during your present lifetime.

It can also be translated as "the next world", "the next generation", "the time that is to come", "otherworld", or simply "posterity".


See Also:  Eternity | Rebirth | Reincarnation | Immortality

Impermanence

wú cháng
mujou
Impermanence Scroll

無常 is the state of being "not permanent", "not enduring", transitory, or evolving.

It can also mean variable or changeable. In some context, it can refer to a ghost that is supposed to take a soul upon death. Following that, this term can also mean to pass away or die.

In the Buddhist context, this is a reminder that everything in this world is ever-changing, and all circumstances of your life are temporary.
If you take the Buddhist philosophy further, none of these circumstances are real, and your existence is an illusion anyway. Thus, the idea of the eternal soul is perhaps just the attachment you have to your ego. Once you release your attachment to all impermanent things, you will be on your way to enlightenment and Buddhahood.

Language notes for this word when used outside the context of Buddhism:
In Korean Hanja, this means uncertainty, transiency, mutability, or evanescent.
In Japanese, the definition orbits closer to the state of being uncertain.

Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher

shā
satsu
Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher Scroll

殺 is how to write "to kill" or "killing".

殺 is an absolutely shocking word to have on a wall scroll. It will bewilder, scare, and perhaps offend any Chinese, Korean, or Japanese person who sees it. I do not in any way recommend this for a piece of calligraphy artwork. This entry is only here because our calligraphy search engine received so many requests for "kill".

Note: In Korean Hanja, this character is not often used alone - see the other two-character entry for "kill".

Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing

shā lù
satsuriku
Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing Scroll

殺戮 is how to write "kill" or "massacre".

殺戮 is an absolutely shocking word to have on a wall scroll. It will bewilder, scare, and perhaps offend any Chinese, Korean or Japanese person who sees it. I do not in any way recommend this for a piece of calligraphy artwork. This entry is only here because our calligraphy search engine received so many requests for "kill" and "massacre".

You are all a bunch of sick puppies!

Live Free or Die

Give me liberty or give me death
bú zì yóu wú nìng sǐ
Live Free or Die Scroll

不自由毋寧死 means, "Give me liberty or give me death", in Chinese.

This is also the best way to say, "Live free or die".

The characters break down this way:
不 = Not; none; without.
自由 = Freedom; liberty; freewill; self-determination.
毋寧 = Rather; would rather; rather be.
死 = Dead; death.

This will go nicely next to your, "Don't tread on me", flag. This phrase is known well enough in China that it's listed in a few dictionaries. Though I doubt you will find too many Chinese citizens willing to yell this on the steps of the capital in Beijing.


See Also:  Death Before Dishonor

New Life

xīn shēng
waka ki
New Life Scroll

This literally means "new life" or "new birth" in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.

Depending on context, this word can also mean newborn, new student, rebirth, new birth, nascent.
In Japanese, this can be the given name Wakaki.


Note: This is not the most common word selection for a calligraphy wall scroll. But if you’re a westerner, you can bend the rules a bit.

Phoenix Rise from the Ashes

fèng huáng niè pán
Phoenix Rise from the Ashes Scroll

This proverb suggests "Legendary Phoenix rises from the ashes". Literally, it means, "Legendary Phoenix [reaches] Nirvana".

There is a legend in China of a great bird which is reborn once every 500 years. This bird gathers all the ill-will, suffering, desire, and other negative things of the whole world. The bird then plunges into the fire to burn away all negative things, sacrificing itself in the process (achieving Nirvana, or perhaps allowing others the opportunity to reach Nirvana).

500 years later, the phoenix is reborn from the ashes again, and the cycle repeats.

Re-Birth / Renaissance

chóng shēng
Re-Birth / Renaissance Scroll

重生 is the Chinese word for rebirth. This can be used literally or metaphorically. As a metaphor, you could use this to say something like "We are watching the rebirth of New Orleans after the disaster of Katrina".

重生 is sometimes translated as "renaissance".

Note: 重生 is not the Buddhist concept of reincarnation or re-birth.


See Also:  Reincarnation

Resurrection / Re-Birth

fù huó
hukkatsu
Resurrection / Re-Birth Scroll

復活 is the Chinese, Japanese and Korean word for resurrection or rebirth. Basically this means "return to life".

It is the term used in most Asian Bibles to refer to the resurrection of Christ. In Japanese, it is sometimes used to mean a Christian Revival. In some context it can mean resuscitation.


See Also:  Christianity | Jesus Christ | God of Abraham

Rehabilitation / Rebirth

gēng shēng
kousei / kose
Rehabilitation / Rebirth Scroll

更生 is a Chinese, Korean and Japanese word that means rebirth or resurrection.

Other definitions include reinvigorated, rejuvenated, a new lease of life, rehabilitation, remaking one's life, starting life anew, regeneration, reorganization, rebuilding, recovery, restoration, remaking, coming back to life, revival, or resuscitation.

Reincarnation (Buddhism)

zhuǎn shì
ten sei
Reincarnation (Buddhism) Scroll

轉世 is the Buddhist idea of reincarnation or transmigration.

Other definitions of this term: "Attainer of Nirvana from within the desire realm", "A practitioner who enters directly into Nirvana from the desire realm, without traversing the form and formless realms. One of the 27 kinds of Hinayana sages", or simply, "to return again to this life".

轉世 is also a Japanese title but the first Kanji was slightly simplified after WWII. Just let us know if you want the modern Japanese version when you order.


See Also:  Buddhism | Rebirth

Reincarnation / Transmigration of Souls

lún huí
rin ne
Reincarnation / Transmigration of Souls Scroll

輪回 / 輪廻 is a universal word in Japanese and Chinese that expresses the Buddhist idea of "reincarnation", "transmigration of souls" or "the eternal cycle of birth and death".

In some context, this can also mean "karma", and others will say it represents "samsara".

The first character means wheel, ring, turn, circle, loop or rotate.
The second character can be thought of as a suffix meaning "-times". This second character can also refer to something that revolves, returns, goes back, or a counter for the number of occurrences of some event.
Together the sum supersedes the parts and it means reincarnation. But knowing the seeing the essence of each character may help you understand some of the meaning behind the word.


廻Shown to the right is the more common way to write the second character in Japanese. it’s an alternate form of this character in Chinese (so neither way is technically wrong in either language). If you select a Japanese calligrapher, expect that is will look like the Kanji to the right.


See Also:  Buddhism | Rebirth

Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth

lún huí
rinne
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Scroll

輪廻 is one of a few ways to express संसार or Saṃsāra in Chinese, Japanese, and old Korean.

The Buddhist term can be translated several ways, including:
Endless cycle of death and rebirth.
The turning of the wheel.
To revolve.
Transmigration in the six ways.
The wheel of transmigration.
The round of existence.




This in-stock artwork might be what you are looking for, and ships right away...

Gallery Price: $88.00

Your Price: $48.88

Gallery Price: $106.00

Your Price: $58.88

Gallery Price: $106.00

Your Price: $58.88


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

Title CharactersRomaji (Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Death Before Dishonor寧為玉碎
宁为玉碎
níng wéi yù suì
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4
ning wei yu sui
ningweiyusui
ning wei yü sui
ningweiyüsui
Death Before Dishonor寧為玉碎不為瓦全
宁为玉碎不为瓦全
níng wéi yù suì bù wéi wǎ quán
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4 bu4 wei2 wa3 quan2
ning wei yu sui bu wei wa quan
ningweiyusuibuweiwaquan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa ch`üan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa chüan
Death Before Surrender寧死不屈
宁死不屈
níng sǐ bù qū
ning2 si3 bu4 qu1
ning si bu qu
ningsibuqu
ning ssu pu ch`ü
ningssupuchü
ning ssu pu chü
Death Before Dishonor可殺不可辱
可杀不可辱
kě shā bù kě rǔ
ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
ke sha bu ke ru
keshabukeru
k`o sha pu k`o ju
koshapukoju
ko sha pu ko ju
Death Before Dishonor士可殺不可辱
士可杀不可辱
shì kě shā bù kě rǔ
shi4 ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
shi ke sha bu ke ru
shikeshabukeru
shih k`o sha pu k`o ju
shihkoshapukoju
shih ko sha pu ko ju
Death Before Dishonor不名譽より死
不名誉より死
fu mei yo yo ri shi
fumeiyoyorishi
Death with Dignity尊厳死son gen shi
songenshi
Death Before Surrender寧死不降
宁死不降
nìng sǐ bù xiáng
ning4 si3 bu4 xiang2
ning si bu xiang
ningsibuxiang
ning ssu pu hsiang
ningssupuhsiang
Honorable Death - No Surrender玉砕主義gyokusai shugi
gyokusaishugi
Grim Reaper
God of Death
死神shinigamisǐ shén / si3 shen2 / si shen / sishenssu shen / ssushen
Return From Death’s Door絕處逢生
绝处逢生
jué chǔ féng shēng
jue2 chu3 feng2 sheng1
jue chu feng sheng
juechufengsheng
chüeh ch`u feng sheng
chüehchufengsheng
chüeh chu feng sheng
Sword of Death殺人剣
杀人剣
satsu jin ken
satsujinken
Assassin刺客shikaku / shikyakucì kè / ci4 ke4 / ci ke / ciketz`u k`o / tzuko / tzu ko
Not Long for this World風燭殘年
风烛残年
fēng zhú cán nián
feng1 zhu2 can2 nian2
feng zhu can nian
fengzhucannian
feng chu ts`an nien
fengchutsannien
feng chu tsan nien
Die Without Regret死而無悔
死而无悔
sǐ ér wú huǐ
si3 er2 wu2 hui3
si er wu hui
sierwuhui
ssu erh wu hui
ssuerhwuhui
Eternal Life
Everlasting Life
Immortality
永生eiseiyǒng shēng
yong3 sheng1
yong sheng
yongsheng
yung sheng
yungsheng
Eternal Life
Future Life
來世
来世
rai-selái shì / lai2 shi4 / lai shi / laishilai shih / laishih
Impermanence無常
无常
mujou / mujowú cháng / wu2 chang2 / wu chang / wuchangwu ch`ang / wuchang / wu chang
Kill
Slaughter
Murder
Butcher

satsushā / sha1 / sha
Kill
Massacre
Mass Killing
殺戮
杀戮
satsurikushā lù / sha1 lu4 / sha lu / shalu
Live Free or Die不自由毋寧死
不自由毋宁死
bú zì yóu wú nìng sǐ
bu2 zi4 you2 wu2 ning4 si3
bu zi you wu ning si
buziyouwuningsi
pu tzu yu wu ning ssu
putzuyuwuningssu
New Life新生waka ki / wakakixīn shēng
xin1 sheng1
xin sheng
xinsheng
hsin sheng
hsinsheng
Phoenix Rise from the Ashes鳳凰涅磐
凤凰涅磐
fèng huáng niè pán
feng4 huang2 nie4 pan2
feng huang nie pan
fenghuangniepan
feng huang nieh p`an
fenghuangniehpan
feng huang nieh pan
Re-Birth
Renaissance
重生chóng shēng
chong2 sheng1
chong sheng
chongsheng
ch`ung sheng
chungsheng
chung sheng
Resurrection
Re-Birth
復活
复活
hukkatsu / hukatsufù huó / fu4 huo2 / fu huo / fuhuo
Rehabilitation
Rebirth
更生kousei / kose
kosei / kose
kosei / kose
gēng shēng
geng1 sheng1
geng sheng
gengsheng
keng sheng
kengsheng
Reincarnation (Buddhism)轉世
转世
ten sei / tenseizhuǎn shì
zhuan3 shi4
zhuan shi
zhuanshi
chuan shih
chuanshih
Reincarnation
Transmigration of Souls
輪回 / 輪廻
轮回
rin ne / rinnelún huí / lun2 hui2 / lun hui / lunhui
Samsara
Endless Cycle of Rebirth
輪廻
轮廻
rinnelún huí / lun2 hui2 / lun hui / lunhui
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.


Many custom options...


Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Scroll
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Scroll
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Scroll
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Scroll


And formats...

Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Vertical Portrait
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Horizontal Wall Scroll
Samsara / Endless Cycle of Rebirth Vertical Portrait
Dictionary

Lookup in my Japanese & Chinese Dictionary

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.