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佛 is the essence of the Buddha or Buddhism.
Depending on context, this word and character can be used to refer to the religion and lifestyle of Buddhism, or in some cases, the Buddha himself.
It is interesting to note that this word is separate from all others in the Chinese language. The sound of "fo" has only this meaning. 佛 is in contrast to many sounds in the Chinese language which can have one of four tones, and more than 20 possible characters and meanings. This language anomaly shows just how significant Buddhism has affected China since the ancient times.
More about Buddhism
佛 is also used with the same meaning in Korean Hanja.
It's used in the very religious context of Buddhism in Japan. It should be noted that there are two forms of this Kanji in use in Japan - this is the more formal/ancient version but it's rarely seen outside of religious artwork, and may not be recognized by all Japanese people.
It also acts as a suffix or first syllable for many Buddhist-related words in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
See our Buddhism & Zen page
仏 is the single Japanese Kanji can mean Buddha or Buddhism.
This Kanji was actually a shorthand way to write 佛 (Buddha) in Chinese (popular around the 13th century). Somehow, this became the version of this Chinese character that was absorbed into Japanese, and thus became part of standard Kanji. Centuries later, this character is not recognized in Chinese at all (except by those from China with a background in Chinese literature or language).
仏 is also a rare or derivative Korean Hanja form - but I doubt you will find any Korean that knows that.
仏教 can mean Buddha or Buddhism in Japanese.
Depending on context, this word can be used to refer to the religion and lifestyle of Buddhism, or in some cases, the Buddha himself.
Note: Until the 5th century, Japan did not have a written language. At that time, Japan absorbed Chinese characters to form their written language (these characters are known as "Kanji" in Japanese). The first character of this Buddhism title was actually a shorthand way to write 佛 (Buddha) in Chinese (popular around the 13th century). Somehow, this became the version of this character that was absorbed into Japanese, and thus became part of standard Kanji. Centuries later, this character is not recognized in Chinese at all.
仏 is also a rare form of Buddha Korean Hanja - though seldom used even when the Korean Hanja writing system was more common 100 years ago.
佛教 is the more exact way to express the religion or lifestyle of Buddhism.
It can also be read as "Buddha's Teachings." 佛教 is Chinese only, as a different character is more commonly used in Japanese to express Buddhism. The same first character is used in Korea but a slight variation exists in the second character in Korean Hanja. However, it would be fully recognized by any Korean person who can read Hanja.
達摩 is the Chinese and Japanese title for Dharma (a short name for Bodhidharma).
He's known in Chinese as Damo, and in Japanese as Daruma.
Note: In Japanese, they tend to write the last character as versus . If you choose the Japanese master calligrapher, expect it to be written in the Japanese version.
淨土宗 is the title of Japanese "Pure Land Buddhism." This form is also romanized/known as "Jodo Shu" (jōdo shū).
Also known as Amidism for the fact that this is a branch of Mahayana (Mahāyāna) Buddhism which focuses on Amitabha (Amitābha) Buddha. This form of Buddhism, along with Chinese characters, came to Japan via China in the 5th century according to most historians.
See Also: Shin Buddhism
This is how to express "The Compassionate Amitabha Buddha" (especially for the Pure Land Buddhist Sect).
Some will translate as, "Homage to Amitâbha Buddha" or "I seek refuge in the Amitâbha Buddha."
This is valid in Chinese characters Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
Sometimes modern Japanese use a different version of the 4th and last Kanji but the version shown here is the most universal.
This is used to pay homage to Amitabha Buddha.
禪宗 is one way to title "Zen Buddhism." Because the original pronunciation of Zen in Chinese is Chan, you'll also see this expressed as Chan Buddhism.
From the Buddhist Dictionary:
The Chan, meditative or intuitional, sect usually said to have been established in China by Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth patriarch, who brought the tradition of the Buddha-mind from India. This sect, believing in direct enlightenment, disregarded ritual and sūtras and depended upon the inner light and personal influence for the propagation of its tenets, founding itself on the esoteric tradition supposed to have been imparted to Kāśyapa by the Buddha, who indicated his meaning by plucking a flower without further explanation. Kāśyapa smiled in apprehension and is supposed to have passed on this mystic method to the patriarchs. The successor of Bodhidharma was 慧可 Huike, and he was succeeded by 僧璨 Sengcan; 道信 Daoxin; 弘忍 Hongren; 慧能 Huineng, and 神秀 Shenxiu, the sect dividing under the two latter into the southern and northern schools: the southern school became prominent, producing 南嶽 Nanyue and 靑原 Qingyuan, the former succeeded by 馬祖 Mazu, the latter by 石頭 Shitou. From Mazu's school arose the five later schools.
三寶 is the title for "Three Precious Treasures of Buddhism."
These three treasures are the Buddha 佛, the Dharma 法 (teachings or the law of the Buddha), and the Sangha 僧 (the community of monks or followers).
This term is used by most (perhaps not all) Buddhists in China, Japan, and South Korea (written the same it the original form, but pronounced differently in each language). Non-Buddhists may just read this as, "Three Treasures," without the religious context. For instance, there is also a, "Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine," that is sometimes titled the same way.
In modern Japanese and Simplified Chinese, this is written 三宝 instead of 三寶.
釋迦牟尼 is a transliteration of "Shakyamuni" or "Sakyamuni" in Chinese, Japanese, and old Korean.
The perceived meaning of the name is roughly translated as, "Sage of the Sakyas."
This same Buddha is also known as "Siddhartha Gautama," "Gotama Buddha," "Tathagata," or simply, "The Supreme Buddha."
釋迦牟尼 is the legendary man and prince who eventually established the Buddhist religion.
Note: Occasionally Romanized as "Siddhattha Gotama."
This combination of characters is sometimes seen and used in South Korea and Japan as well (with the same meaning).
Note: 釋迦牟尼 came from the Sanskrit शाक्यमुनि and can also be romanized with diuretics as Śākyamuni.
The Buddha ordered that all should know this triple truth...
A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
This is the English translation most commonly used for this Japanese Buddhist phrase. You might have seen this on a coffee cup or tee-shirt.
Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.
釈迦 is the way to write Shakyamuni in Japanese.
It's just two Kanji, the first is a simplified version of the one used in Chinese for Shakyamuni, and the second one is identical to the Chinese.
This refers to the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, 563 BCE-483 BCE) also known as Sakyamuni and Gautama Buddha.
This has very good meaning in Japanese but is an odd selection for a wall scroll. It appears here more for reference.
十法 is the title of the ten perfect or perfecting Mahāyāna rules.
The order of rules are as follows:
1. right belief.
2. right conduct.
3. right spirit.
4. joy of the bodhi mind.
5. joy in the dharma.
6. joy in meditation.
7. pursuing the correct dharma.
8. obedience to, or accordance with dharma.
9. departing from pride, desire, etc.
10. comprehending the inner teaching of Buddha and taking no pleasure attaining such knowledge or noting the ignorance of others.
This title is only used in the context of Buddhism. Japanese and Chinese people who are not familiar with Buddhism will not recognize this title.
心印 is a Buddhist concept that simply stated is "appreciation of truth by meditation."
It's a deep subject, but my understanding is that you can find truth through meditation, and once you've found the truth, you can learn to appreciate it more through further meditation. This title is not commonly used outside of the Buddhist community (your Asian friends may or may not understand it). The literal translation would be something like "the mind seal," I've seen this term translated this way from Japanese Buddhist poetry. But apparently, the seal that is stamped deep in your mind is the truth. You just have to meditate to find it.
Soothill defines it this way: Mental impression, intuitive certainty; the mind is the Buddha-mind in all, which can seal or assure the truth; the term indicates the intuitive method of the Chan (Zen) school, which was independent of the spoken or written word.
See Also: Zen
The Bodhi or 菩提 is the moment of completion in Buddhism.
It is when all things become known, and you have completed your journey to enlightenment.
The reference is to the Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama (the legendary man and who established the Buddhist religion), achieved enlightenment. Sometimes this is referred to as "the tree of enlightenment" but if you want the full version with the character for tree on the end, please see our other entry.
菩薩 is the title of a deity in Buddhism that exists to help you reach enlightenment.
In Buddhist beliefs, a bodhisattva (bodhisatta) is a being who is dedicated to helping us achieve enlightenment. Bodhisattva literally means enlightenment truth which is bodhi sattva in Sanskrit.
This term is sometimes used to refer to a kindhearted person, one who will sacrifice himself/herself for others, and lacks ego or desire but is instead devoted to the good and well-being of others.
This literally means "pure land" or "clean earth."
淨土 is also the abbreviated title of a Buddhist sect which involves faith in rebirth of Buddha Amitabha (Amitābha) in the Western Heaven. Sometimes this sect is translated as "Paradise of the West." Other titles of this school of Buddhism include Amidism or Elvsium.
This is the modern Japanese version of "Namu Amida Butsu" or "The Compassionate Amitabha Buddha."
Some will translate this as, "I sincerely believe in Amitabha; Lord have mercy on me."
This phrase especially applies to Japanese Pure Land Buddhists.
There is a more universal version using ancient characters (with more strokes) for the 4th and last characters. That version is also used in Chinese, Korean, and occasionally Vietnamese. This is used to pay homage to Amitabha Buddha.
觀世音 is the longer, and perhaps more formal title for the Buddhist deity known as the Goddess of Mercy or Bodhisattva of Compassion.
The longer title of this bodhisattva is Romanized in the following ways:
Mandarin Chinese: Guanshi Yin, Kuan-shih Yin.
Sanskrit: Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
Vietnamese: Quan Thế Âm.
Thai: Prah Mae Kuan Eim.
English: Bodhisattva of Mercy and Salvation, Goddess of Compassion, Buddha of Mercy, et al.
Please view our more common and shorter version "Guan Yin" before you make a decision. Also, note that the first character has a slight variation in Japanese. If your audience is specifically Japanese, you may want to select that version.
觀音 / 観音 is the Buddhist deity known as the Goddess of Mercy or Bodhisattva of Compassion.
In Chinese, the proper name of this being is Guan Yin. There is some debate as to whether Guan Yin is female. The argument comes from some scripture that suggests Buddhist deities take on the male form. Others say that Guan Yin has no sex. And still others are okay with the female representation of Guan Yin.
This bodhisattva is also known or Romanized in the following ways:
Mandarin Chinese: Guan Yin, Kuan Yin, Kwan Yin.
Japanese: Kannon, Kwannon.
Sanskrit: Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
Vietnamese: Quan Âm.
Thai: Kuan Eim.
English: Bodhisattva of Mercy and Salvation, Goddess of Compassion, Buddha of Mercy, et al.
Note: The first character has a slight variation in Japanese. If your audience is specifically Japanese, you may want to select that version.
悉達多 is the name Siddhartha (as in Siddhartha Gautama), the personal name for Śākyamuni.
This same Buddha is also known as "Shakyamuni Gautama," "Gotama Buddha," or "Tathagata."
Siddhartha Gautama was a spiritual teacher in the northern region of the Indian subcontinent who founded Buddhism. He is generally seen by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha (Sammāsambuddha) of known human history.
The actual meaning of this name in Chinese is the realization of all aims, or simply being prosperous.
This name is sometimes romanized from the original Sanskrit or Pali as Siddhattha (from Siddhattha Gotama), Siddharth, Siddhārtha, or Sarvāthasiddha.
Siddhārtha or Sarvāthasiddha can also be written as 悉達, 悉多, 悉多頞他, or 悉陀.
In Taoist and Buddhist context, this means to "Walk in the Way." In Buddhism, that further means to follow the Buddha truth. In some Buddhist sects, this can mean to make a procession around a statue of the Buddha (always with the right shoulder towards the Buddha).
Outside of that context, this can mean route (when going somewhere), the way to get somewhere, etc.
In Japanese, this can be the surname or given name Yukimichi.
法輪 is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja title, "The Eternal Wheel of Life," in Buddhism.
Also known as the wheel of the law, or Buddha-truth which is able to crush all evil and all opposition. It is likened to Indra's wheel which rolls on from man to man, place to place, age to age.
Colloquially used in some sects to mean preaching or spreading Buddha-truth.
In Buddhism, this term refers to a community of monks and/or nuns (one of the "Three Jewels"). In general terms, it can simply mean "all followers of the Buddha."
Notes: Though there are not vast numbers of Chinese Hindus, in the Hindu faith, this term means "community together."
The original Sanskrit word is also Romanized as samgha.
The first character means "monk." The second character means Buddha or Shakyamuni.
僧伽 is really a transliteration of the original Sanskrit but it uses two very profound Chinese characters related to Buddhism.
Some may pronounce this as "seng qie" or "seng jia" in Mandarin (two possible pronunciations for second character). Note that "qie" would sound a bit like "chee-ah" using typical English pronunciation. Chinese Romanization is not actually designed to match English sounds.
Note that when writing this as Kanji, Japanese will tend to write the first character in the form shown to the right. If you select our Japanese master calligrapher, please expect this special Kanji form. However, it should also be noted that this is not a common term in Japanese (except by certain sects of Buddhism or perhaps devout Buddhists in Japan).
化身 is a way to say avatar in Chinese characters, Korean Hanja, and Japanese Kanji.
化身 is the original Buddhist idea of avatar (not the movie). 化身 can also mean: incarnation; reincarnation; embodiment; personification; impersonation.
化身 is the Chinese word used for the original Sanskrit, nirmāṇakāya. Alternates for nirmāṇakāya include 應身, 應化身, or 變化身. In the context of Buddhism, this is a Buddha's metamorphosic body, which has the power to assume any shape to propagate the Truth. This title, 化身, is used for the appearance of a Buddha's many forms.
This can be defined as "The Law of Buddha," "The Power of Buddha," or simply "Dharma."
世界 is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja for world.
Beyond the world, this can refer to society, the universe, space, a sphere or circle.
In Buddhism, this would mean the realm governed by one Buddha.
有緣 means: related; brought together by fate; same karma; those who have the cause, link, or connection.
有緣 is a common word in Chinese but usually only used in the context of Buddhism in Japanese.
Buddhists will say this refers to those that are influenced by and responsive to the Buddha.
日蓮 is the title Nichiren.
This title refers to a Buddhist priest, who lived from 1222 to 1282. He is the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.
According to historical documents, the Nichiren sect was established in 1252. Adding the character for sect, this would be 日蓮宗 (Nichiren sect), which is also known as the 法華宗 or Lotus sect.
According to Soothill-Hodous...
Nichiren's chief tenets are the three great mysteries 三大祕法, representing the trikāya:
1. 本尊 or chief object of worship, being the great maṇḍala of the worlds of the ten directions, or universe, i.e. the body or nirmāṇakāya of Buddha.
2. 題目 the title of the Lotus Sutra 妙法蓮華經 Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo, preceded by Namo, or, "Adoration to the scripture of the lotus of the wonderful law," for it is Buddha's spiritual body.
3. 戒壇 the altar of the law, which is also the title of the Lotus as above; the believer, wherever he is, dwells in the Pure-land of calm light 寂光淨土, the saṃbhogakāya.
五祖拳 is a martial arts concept (or school) known as Five Ancestors' Fist.
The first character means five.
The second means ancestor, forefather, or grandparents.
The third means fist.
The ancestors referred to by this title and whose attributes contribute to this style are as follows:
1. Grace of the White Crane.
2. Agility of the Monkey.
3. Precision and skill of Emperor Taizu (great mythical ancestor).
4. Power of Luohan (Buddhist arhat).
5. Breath of Damo (founder of Buddhism, or the first Buddha).
光明 is a nice way to say "light" in Chinese, and old Korean Hanja. 光明 is because the word also suggests a bright future or refers so someone who is very promising (great future potential).
The first character means light or bright.
The second character means bright and clear (in this context).
光明 appears in most Japanese dictionaries but it not the most common Japanese Kanji word for light (more commonly used for the name Mitsuharu).
In old Korean Hanja, this can have a meaning of brightness or brilliancy.
In the context of Buddhism, this means, "Light emanating from a Buddha or Bodhisattva, symbolizing their wisdom and compassion"
In the most basic translation, this means road through the middle, or middle road.
The expanded meaning can be moderation, golden mean.
But if you are looking for this title, you are probably seeking the Buddhist definition, which is more complex.
中道 is the middle way or middle path of Buddhism. 中道 has various interpretations. In general, it denotes the mean between two extremes and has special reference to the mean between realism and nihilism, or eternal substantial existence and annihilation.
The Buddha teaches that one should not take things to extremes. Don't be extremely evil, and engage in debauchery and murder. But do not spend every waking out trying to be a perfect saint. Instead, take the middle path, try to help others, show loving kindness wherever you can, try not to do harm. If you do inadvertently harm another being, make amends if you can, and move on. Realize you are not perfect, but in time, a path of moderation lead toward proper living and enlightenment.
僧 is the single-character or short form of Sangha, the Buddhist idea of community or order (of monks, nuns, or followers of the Buddha).
Alone, this character can simply mean "monk" (Just means monk in Japanese).
Note that when writing this as Kanji, Japanese will tend to write this in the form shown to the right. If you select our Japanese master calligrapher, please expect this special Kanji form.
These are the Chinese characters that mean Nirvāṇa. I will let you decide what Nirvana means to you.
涅槃 / 涅盤 can also be translated as "Buddha's death and salvation" or "death of a Buddhist monk" depending on context. However, this is not seen with any bad meaning. You could replace "death" with "moving on," as that is how it's seen in a Buddhist context.
More info from our dictionary: Nirvana
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|佛||hotoke||fó / fo2 / fo|
|仏 / 佛|
|hotoke / butsu|
|Buddhism||仏教||bukkyou / bukyo|
|Buddhism||佛教||fó jiào / fo2 jiao4 / fo jiao / fojiao||fo chiao / fochiao|
|達摩 / 達磨|
达摩 / 达磨
|daru ma / daruma||dá mó / da2 mo2 / da mo / damo||ta mo / tamo|
|Pure Land Buddhism|
|jou do shuu|
jo do shu
|jìng tǔ zōng|
jing4 tu3 zong1
jing tu zong
|ching t`u tsung
ching tu tsung
|Namo Amitabha Buddha||南無阿彌陀佛|
|namu amida butsu|
|nā mó ē mí tuó fó|
na1 mo2 e1 mi2 tuo2 fo2
na mo e mi tuo fo
|na mo o mi t`o fo
na mo o mi to fo
|Kensho Jyobutsu - Enlightenment - Path to Buddha||見性成佛|
|ken shou jyo butsu|
ken sho jyo butsu
|zen shuu / zenshuu / zen shu / zenshu||chán zōng|
|Three Treasures of Buddhism||三寶|
|san bou / sanbou / san bo / sanbo||sān bǎo / san1 bao3 / san bao / sanbao||san pao / sanpao|
|sha ka mu ni|
|shì jiā móu ní|
shi4 jia1 mou2 ni2
shi jia mou ni
|shih chia mou ni
|Triple Truth of Japanese Buddhism||人間性を再生するのは寛容な心親切な言葉奉仕と思いやりの精神||ningensei o saisei suruno wa kanyou na kokoro shinsetsu na kotoba houshi to omoi yari no seishin|
ningensei o saisei suruno wa kanyo na kokoro shinsetsu na kotoba hoshi to omoi yari no seishin
|釈迦||sha ka / shaka||shì jiā / shi4 jia1 / shi jia / shijia||shih chia / shihchia|
|Ten perfect Mahayana rules||十法||jippou / jipo||shí fǎ / shi2 fa3 / shi fa / shifa||shih fa / shihfa|
|Appreciation of Truth by Meditation||心印||shin nin / shinnin||xīn yìn / xin1 yin4 / xin yin / xinyin||hsin yin / hsinyin|
|Bodhi - Awakening Enlightenment||菩提||bodai||pú tí / pu2 ti2 / pu ti / puti||p`u t`i / puti / pu ti|
|bosatsu||pú sà / pu2 sa4 / pu sa / pusa||p`u sa / pusa / pu sa|
|jou do / joudo / jo do / jodo||jìng tǔ / jing4 tu3 / jing tu / jingtu||ching t`u / chingtu / ching tu|
|Namu Amida Butsu||南無阿弥陀仏||namu amida butsu|
|Goddess of Mercy and Compassion||觀世音|
|guān shì yīn|
guan1 shi4 yin1
guan shi yin
|kuan shih yin
|Goddess of Mercy and Compassion||觀音 / 観音|
|kan non / kannon||guān yīn / guan1 yin1 / guan yin / guanyin||kuan yin / kuanyin|
|shiddatta / shiddaruta||xī dá duō|
xi1 da2 duo1
xi da duo
|hsi ta to
|Walk in the Way||行道||yukimichi||xíng dào / xing2 dao4 / xing dao / xingdao||hsing tao / hsingtao|
|Eternal Wheel of Life||法輪|
|hourin / horin|
horin / horin
|fǎ lún / fa3 lun2 / fa lun / falun|
|Sangha||僧伽||sougya / sogya||sēng qié / seng1 qie2 / seng qie / sengqie||seng ch`ieh / sengchieh / seng chieh|
|Avatar||化身||keshin||huà shēn / hua4 shen1 / hua shen / huashen|
|Thirst for Truth||渴法||katsuhō||kě fǎ / ke3 fa3 / ke fa / kefa||k`o fa / kofa / ko fa|
|佛法||fó fǎ / fo2 fa3 / fo fa / fofa|
|kaikaku / kaikaku||kāi jué / kai1 jue2 / kai jue / kaijue||k`ai chüeh / kaichüeh / kai chüeh|
|The World||世界||sei kai / seikai||shì jiè / shi4 jie4 / shi jie / shijie||shih chieh / shihchieh|
|uen||yǒu yuán / you3 yuan2 / you yuan / youyuan||yu yüan / yuyüan|
|nichi ren / nichiren||rì lián / ri4 lian2 / ri lian / rilian||jih lien / jihlien|
|Five Ancestors Fist||五祖拳||wǔ zǔ quán|
wu3 zu3 quan2
wu zu quan
|wu tsu ch`üan
wu tsu chüan
Bright and Promising Future
|光明||kou mei / mitsu haru|
koumei / mitsuharu
ko mei / mitsu haru
|The Middle Way||中道||chuu dou / chuudou / chu do / chudo||zhōng dào|
Order of Monks
|僧||sou / so||sēng / seng1 / seng|
|Nirvana||涅槃 / 涅盤|
|ne han / nehan||niè pán / nie4 pan2 / nie pan / niepan||nieh p`an / niehpan / nieh pan|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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