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I Understand in Chinese / Japanese...

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  1. Light / Bright

  2. Reality

  3. Reality / Realistic

  4. Great Aspirations / Ambition

  5. Never Forget

  6. Truth Flashed Through The Mind

  7. Wisdom

  8. A Life of Serenity Yields Understanding

  9. If you have not been a monk, how can you know what it is like to be a vegetarian?

10. Abundance and Prosperity

11. 1. Right Understanding / Right Perspective / Right View / Perfect View

12. Satori / Enlightenment

13. The Holy Trinity

14. Great Wisdom

15. Free Will

16. Innovation

17. Listen to Both Sides and be Enlightened, Listen to One Side and be in the Dark

18. Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33

19. Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself

20. The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn

21. Wisdom from Hard Knocks

22. Peace of Mind

23. Satori / Enlightenment

24. Enthusiasm / Passion for a Cause

25. Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself, and You Cannot Lose

26. Loyalty / Devotion

27. Great Ambitions

28. Reincarnation / Transmigration of Souls

29. Cooperation / Collaboration

30. Wing Chun

31. Keep Calm in Face of Adversity

32. Seven Heavenly Virtues

33. Achieve Inner Peace; Find Deep Understanding

34. Ken Zen Ichi Nyo

35. Learn New Ways From Old / Onkochishin

36. Appreciation of Truth by Meditation

37. Zendo / The Zen Way

38. No man knows what he owes to his parents until he comes to have children of his own

39. An Open Book Benefits Your Mind

40. Money

41. Tea Fate

42. Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks


Light / Bright

míng
mei / myou
Light / Bright Scroll

明 means light, bright, clear, clarity, to understand, or wise.

In Chinese this can refer to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) where it can also be the surname Ming.

In Japanese, this can be romanized many different ways when used as surnames or given names. 明 is a partial list of those names: Meishuu, Mei, Min, Myoujin, Myou, Hinata, Haru, Toshi, Tooru, Sayaka, Saya, Satoshi, Asumi, Akera, Akemine, Akesaki, Ake, Akuru, Akiraka, and Akira.

In the Buddhist context, this represents vidyā (knowledge). To expand that, Buddhists understand this to mean bright, clear, enlightenment, wisdom, or to understand. It represents Buddha-wisdom and its revelation; also the manifestation of a Buddha's light or effulgence.

xǐng wù
Reality Scroll

醒悟 / 省悟 is a Chinese word that expresses the idea of reality or coming to understand what is true and real.

The first character means to wake up, awaken, comprehend, introspect, or visit.

The second character means to comprehend or understand (be enlightened).

The meanings of Chinese words are not necessarily the sum of their parts. In this case, at best, you can derive that the characters express "understanding what is real" or "knowing what is real". Any Chinese person will perceive this word in a similar way to how we use "reality" in English.


省Note: The first character can also be written in a different form as shown to the right. Same meaning in Chinese, either way it’s written.

Reality / Realistic

gen jitsu sei
Reality / Realistic Scroll

現実性 is a Japanese word that expresses the idea of reality or coming to understand what is true and real.

This can also be translated as realistic, practical, or feasible.


See Also:  Illusion

Great Aspirations / Ambition

hóng hú zhī zhì
Great Aspirations / Ambition Scroll

This Chinese proverb implies that having great ambitions also means that others will not understand your great expectations and ideas.

Though the actual words come from a longer saying of Confucius which goes, "The little swallows living under the eaves wouldn't understand the lofty ambitions of a swan (who flies far and wide)".

This Confucius quote has led to this idiomatic expression in China that means "think big". What you'd really be saying is "The lofty ambitions of a swan".

Note that Chinese people sometimes refer to the little swallow, as one who does not "think big" but is, instead, stuck in a rut, or just leading a mundane life. Therefore, it's a compliment to be called a swan but not a good thing to be called a swallow.

yǒng zhì bù wàng
Never Forget Scroll

永志不忘 literally translates as, "forever remember, never forget".

But most will just understand this as "never forget" or "never forgotten" in Chinese.

Truth Flashed Through The Mind

cān wù
Truth Flashed Through The Mind Scroll

參悟 is a Chan / Zen Buddhism concept that means "to understand (mystery) from meditation", or "to see truth flash through the mind".

參悟 is a pretty deep idea, therefore, your own study and contemplation may be required before you can fully appreciate it.

zhī huì
chie
Wisdom Scroll

The first Kanji represents "to know" or "to realize". Combined, these two Kanji mean "learn, know, and understand completely". Another way to translate this is "to know all things in their entirety".

Note: While vaguely understood in Chinese, this is only a real word in Japanese.


惠 Ancient Japanese/Korean version: This is also a word in old Korean Hanja, with a slight difference in the last character - if you want that version (which is also the ancient Japanese version) please click on the character to the right, instead of the button above.

A Life of Serenity Yields Understanding

dàn bó yǐ míng zhì, níng jìng ér zhì yuǎn
A Life of Serenity Yields Understanding Scroll

This is a kind of complex ten-character proverb composed by Zhuge Liang about 1800 years ago.

This Chinese proverb means "Leading a simple life will yield a clear mind, and having inner peace will help you see far (into the world)".

What I have translated as "simple life" means NOT being materialistic and NOT competing in the rat race.

The last word means "far" but the deeper meaning is that you will surpass what you can currently see or understand. Perhaps even the idea of opening up vast knowledge and understanding of complex ideas.

The whole phrase has a theme that suggests if you are NOT an aggressive cut-throat person who fights his way to the top no matter how many people he crushes on the way, and instead seek inner peace, you will have a happier existence and be more likely to understand the meaning of life.


See Also:  Serenity

If you have not been a monk, how can you know what it is like to be a vegetarian?

Only by experiencing hardship will allow you to understand the plight of others
bù dāng hé shang bù zhī zhāi jiè kǔ
If you have not been a monk, how can you know what it is like to be a vegetarian? Scroll

This literally translates as:
[One who has] not been a monk [does not] know the suffering of [being on a] vegetarian diet.

不當和尚不知齋戒苦 is a bit like the "walk a mile in another man's shoes" saying. Basically it's about you cannot fully understand the plight of others until you experience it yourself.

Abundance and Prosperity

fán róng fù yù
hanei yuuhuku
Abundance and Prosperity Scroll

繁榮富裕 is a proverb about "Prosperity and Abundance".

繁榮富裕 present and reinforce the ideas of being prosperous, a booming economy, well-to-do, well-off, wealth, riches, and opulence.

繁榮富裕 is the ancient/traditional Chinese way to write this but most Japanese can fully read and understand it. It's also the correct form of old Korean Hanja (though few Koreans of the current generation will be able to read this).


See Also:  Good Fortune

1. Right Understanding / Right Perspective / Right View / Perfect View

Samyag Dristhi / Samyag Drsti / Samma Ditthi
zhèng jiàn
sei ken
1. Right Understanding / Right Perspective / Right View / Perfect View Scroll

正見 is one of the Noble Eightfold Paths of Buddhism. Right View, along with Right Thought constitutes the path to Wisdom.

To get to the right view of the world, you must first understand and follow Four Noble Truths.


Note: This term is exclusively used by devout Buddhists. It is not a common term, and is remains an unknown concept to most Japanese and Chinese people.


See Also:  Buddhism | Enlightenment | Noble Eightfold Path

Satori / Enlightenment

sato / go
Satori / Enlightenment Scroll

悟 means enlightenment but can also mean to perceive, discern, realize, understand or comprehend.

悟 has the same meaning in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, though used most often with deep significance in Japanese culture and language. 悟 is often seen in Japan with a secondary Hiragana character. We also offer that option but this is the more universal single-character entry.

The Holy Trinity

sān wèi yì tǐ
The Holy Trinity Scroll

三位一體 is the Chinese and old Korean way to write Holy Trinity.

This would be understood in Japanese as well, but they tend to write it with the last character simplified like 三位一体 in modern Japan.

三位一體 can be translated literally as "Three Thrones, One Body".
Asian Christians will understand this to be the Trinity, as in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Great Wisdom

Prajñā
bō rě
hannya
Great Wisdom  Scroll

般若 means great wisdom or wondrous knowledge.

In the Buddhist context, this is prajna or prajñā, to know, to understand, to have the wisdom required to attain enlightenment.

Since this is a wisdom which transcends the realm of logic, the pure, absolute wisdom beyond the reach of words and concepts, it is not obtained through learning, but is realized for the first time through a religious experience.

zì yóu yì zhì
jiyuu ishi
Free Will Scroll

This concept has existed for thousands of years that humans have the ability to understand right and wrong, then make a decision one way or the other (thus affecting their own fate).

Sources such as Confucius, Buddhist scriptures, the Qur'an and the Bible all address this idea.

As for the characters shown here, the first two mean free, freedom, or liberty. The last two simply mean "will".


See Also:  Freedom | Strong Willed | Fate

gé xīn
kakushin
Innovation Scroll

革新 is innovate or innovation in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.

The literal meaning is, "new leather" but you need to first understand that colloquially, this leather character also means renewal, reform, change, or transform.

The while the first character is leather or reform, the second character strictly means "new".

Listen to Both Sides and be Enlightened, Listen to One Side and be in the Dark

jiān tīng zé míng, piān tīng zé àn
Listen to Both Sides and be Enlightened, Listen to One Side and be in the Dark Scroll

兼聽則明偏聽則暗 is an ancient Chinese proverb about getting all the information from all sides so that you truly understand a situation.

Wei Zheng

Wei Zheng

A man named Wei Zheng lived between 580-643 AD. He was a noble and wise historian and minister in the court of the early Tang Dynasty.The emperor once asked him, "What should an emperor do to understand the real-world situation and what makes an emperor out-of-touch with reality?"

Wei Zheng replied, "Listen to both sides and you will be enlightened; listen to only one side and you will be left in the dark".

Then Wei Zheng went on to cite examples of leaders in history that were victorious after heeding both sides of the story, and other leaders that met their doom because they believed one-sided stories which often came from flattering lips.

Please note that there is an unwritten rule when the same character appears twice in the same phrase, the calligrapher will alter the appearance so that no two characters are exactly alike in the same piece. This calligraphy has two repeating characters that will be written differently than they appear here.

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33

zhī rén zhě zhī yě zì zhī zhě míng yě shèng rén zhě yǒu lì yě zì shèng zhě qiáng yě zhī zú zhě fù yě qiáng xíng zhě yǒu zhì yě bù zhī qí suǒ zhě jiǔ yě sǐ ér bù wáng zhě shòu yě
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll

This is referred to as passage or chapter 33 of the Dao De Jing (often Romanized as "Tao Te Ching").

These are the words of the philosopher Laozi (Lao Tzu).

The following is one translation of this passage:
To know others is wisdom;
To know oneself is acuity/intelligence.
To conquer others is power,
To conquer oneself is strength.
To know contentment is to have wealth.
To act resolutely is to have purpose.
To stay one's ground is to be enduring.
To die and yet not be forgotten is to be long-lived.
Another translation:
To understand others is to be knowledgeable;
To understand yourself is to be wise.
To conquer others is to have strength;
To conquer yourself is to be strong.
To know when you have enough is to be rich.
To go forward with strength is to have ambition.
To not lose your place is to be long lasting.
To die but not be forgotten -- that's true long life.
A third translation of the second half:
He who is content is rich;
He who acts with persistence has will;
He who does not lose his roots will endure;
He who dies physically but preserves the Dao
will enjoy a long after-life.


Notes:

During our research, the Chinese characters shown here are probably the most accurate to the original text of Laozi. These were taken for the most part from the Mawangdui 1973 and Guodan 1993 manuscripts which pre-date other Daodejing texts by about 1000 years.

Grammar was a little different in Laozi’s time. So you should consider this to be the ancient Chinese version. Some have modernized this passage by adding, removing, or swapping articles and changing the grammar (we felt the oldest and most original version would be more desirable). You may find other versions printed in books or online - sometimes these modern texts are simply used to explain to Chinese people what the original text really means.

This language issue can be compared in English by thinking how the King James (known as the Authorized version in Great Britain) Bible from 1611 was written, and comparing it to modern English. Now imagine that the Daodejing was probably written around 403 BCE (2000 years before the King James Version of the Bible). To a Chinese person, the original Daodejing reads like text that is 3 times more detached compared to Shakespeare’s English is to our modern-day speech.

Extended notes:

While on this Biblical text comparison, it should be noted, that just like the Bible, all the original texts of the Daodejing were lost or destroyed long ago. Just as with the scripture used to create the Bible, various manuscripts exist, many with variations or copyist errors. Just as the earliest New Testament scripture (incomplete) is from 170 years after Christ, the earliest Daodejing manuscript (incomplete) is from 100-200 years after the death of Laozi.

The reason that the originals were lost probably has a lot to do with the first Qin Emperor. Upon taking power and unifying China, he ordered the burning and destruction of all books (scrolls/rolls) except those pertaining to Chinese medicine and a few other subjects. The surviving Daodejing manuscripts were either hidden on purpose or simply forgotten about. Some were not unearthed until as late as 1993.

We compared a lot of research by various archeologists and historians before deciding on this as the most accurate and correct version. But one must allow that it may not be perfect, or the actual and original as from the hand of Laozi himself.

Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself

zhí bǐ zhí jī
Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself Scroll

This proverb is from Sun Tzu's (Sunzi's) Art of War. It means that if you know and understand the enemy, you also know yourself. There is a secondary four characters that come after this in the Art of War (not included here) which suggest you cannot lose a battle when you follow this philosophy.

In a very literal and somewhat-boring way, this can also be translated as, "Estimate correctly one's strength as well as that of one's opponent".

The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn

lí míng qián de hēi àn
The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn Scroll

This is the most natural way to write, "The night is darkest before the dawn", in Chinese.

The words break down this way by meaning this way:
1.黎明 dawn / daybreak
2.前 before / in front / ago / former / previous / earlier / front
3.的 (possessive particle) / of
4.黑暗 dark / darkly / darkness

If you try to understand the Chinese word order and grammar, it's like, "Before dawn, is the darkest [time]".

Wisdom from Hard Knocks

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

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".

Peace of Mind

(five character version)
nèi xīn de níng jìng
Peace of Mind Scroll

內心的寧靜 is the longer way to express the idea of "peace of mind" in Chinese.

The first two characters mean heart or "innermost being".
The middle character is a connecting modifier.
The last two characters mean peace, tranquility, or serenity.

Some may also translate this as "inner peace" but I like our other inner-peace options for that idea.

This kind of makes sense in Korean but will have an archaic read - even by those who can understand Korean Hanja.

Satori / Enlightenment

satori
Satori / Enlightenment Scroll

悟り is the Japanese term for enlightenment which can also mean to perceive, discern, realize, understand or comprehend.

The first character has the same meaning in Chinese and Korean but has deeper significance in Japanese culture and language. This version of Satori incorporates the Japanese secondary character (which is Hiragana, not Kanji) that adds the "ri" to Satori. It's not totally necessary to have the second character, as it does not add to the meaning as much as clarity for the context in which you are using this term.

Enthusiasm / Passion for a Cause

qíng rè
jou netsu
Enthusiasm / Passion for a Cause Scroll

情熱 is the Japanese word that means enthusiasm, or "passion for a cause".

In some context, this could have a meaning of being extremely fond of something, or having fondness for a cause or person.

Can also be translated as passion, zeal, ardour, or fervor.

Note: 情熱 order is not natural in Chinese. However, a typical Chinese person can guess that this is a Japanese or Korean word and also understand the intended the meaning. This selection is best if your audience is Japanese or old-school Korean.


See Also:  Persistence | Devotion | Tenacity | Commitment | Motivation

Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself, and You Cannot Lose

zhí bǐ zhí jī bǎi zhàn bú dài
Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself, and You Cannot Lose Scroll

This is from Sun Tzu's (Sunzi's) Art of War. It means that if you know and understand the enemy, you also know yourself, and thus with this complete understanding, you cannot lose.

This proverb is often somewhat-directly translated as, "Know the enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without defeat".

It can also be translated as, "If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles without danger", or "Know your enemy, know yourself, and your victory will not be threatened".

Loyalty / Devotion

zhōng yì
chuu gi
Loyalty / Devotion Scroll

忠義 is another form of loyalty or devotion.

In Chinese, this is more specifically about being loyal and devoted to your friends.

In Japanese, this is more often used to mean loyalty to your country or nation.

Except for the slight difference noted above between Japanese and Chinese, this word is understood universally in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja. It can also be used to describe devotion or fidelity.

It should be noted that this Kanji combination is being used less and less in modern Japan (this is a better choice if your audience is Chinese, though any Japanese person will clearly understand it).

Great Ambitions

Brave the wind and the waves
chéng fēng pò làng
Great Ambitions Scroll

乘風破浪 is a Chinese proverb that represents having great ambitions.

The British might say "to plough through". Another way to understand it is, "surmount all difficulties and forge ahead courageously".

This can also be translated as, "braving the wind and waves", "to brave the wind and the billows", "to ride the wind and crest the waves", or "to be ambitious and unafraid".

Literally it reads: "ride (like a chariot) [the] wind [and] break/cleave/cut [the] waves", or "ride [the] wind [and] slash [through the] waves".

乘風破浪 is a great proverb to encourage yourself or someone else not to be afraid of problems or troubles, and when you have a dream just go for it.

There is an alternate version, 長風破浪, but 乘風破浪 is far more common.

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

Cooperation / Collaboration

xié zuò
kyou saku
Cooperation / Collaboration Scroll

協作 is a Chinese, Japanese, and old Korean word that means cooperation or collaboration.

Cooperation is working together and sharing the load. When we cooperate, we join with others to do things that cannot be done alone. We are willing to follow the rules which keep everyone safe and happy. Together we can accomplish great things.

The first character means "united" or "to coordinate". The second character means "to do", "to make", or "to compose". Knowing this, you can understand why together, these characters create a word that can be defined as "cooperation" in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

It is implied that you are cooperating to create some project or product.


See Also:  Partnership

yǒng chūn
wing2 cheun1
ei haru
Wing Chun Scroll

This martial arts technique has an oral history (versus a written one) so very little can be said for sure about its origins.
Wing Chun (or Wing Cheun) is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes short combat strokes.

The characters literally mean "Singing Spring" (as in springtime).

If you are wondering, the spelling and pronunciation of this martial arts style in English comes from the Cantonese pronunciation of these characters. The second character sounds similar in both Mandarin and Cantonese but the first is quite different.

Note: This title can be pronounced in Japanese but only a Japanese practitioner of Wing Chun would recognize or understand this title. It is not considered to be a Japanese word or martial art at all.

Keep Calm in Face of Adversity

shitsuitaizen
Keep Calm in Face of Adversity Scroll

失意泰然 is a very old Japanese proverb that suggests, "keeping calm and collected at times of disappointment", or "maintaining a serene state of mind when faced with adversity".

It's hard to relate individual character meanings into the overall meaning unless you also understand Japanese grammar. The word order is very different than English. That being said, here's the character meaning breakdown:
失 To miss, lose or fail.
意 Feelings, thoughts, meaning.
泰 Safe, peaceful.
然 Like that, in that way, however, although.

Using these definitions in English, we might say, "Although you may fail or lose, have a feeling of peace and calm".

Seven Heavenly Virtues

xìn yǎng xī wàng cí shàn jiān rěn zhèng yì shèn zhòng jié zhì
shinkou kibou jizen kennin seigi shinchou sessei
Seven Heavenly Virtues Scroll

This is a list in Chinese and Japanese Kanji of an interpretation of the Seven Heavenly Virtues.

1. Faith is belief in God, and the right virtues.
2. Hope is taking a positive future view that good will prevail.
3. Charity is concern for, and active helping of, others.
4. Fortitude is never giving up.
5. Justice is being fair and equitable with others.
6. Prudence is care of and moderation with money.
7. Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.

The full list is here. This is a word list, not a common phrase. While all Chinese and Japanese people will recognize the words in the list, they may not understand what the list is about (unless they are familiar with the Seven Heavenly Virtues).


don’t get this as a tattoo or anything like that without first consulting a native translator in the target language. These are fine for a wall scroll but a long discussion is needed before you commit to this for a lifetime inking commitment.

Achieve Inner Peace; Find Deep Understanding

níng jìng ér zhì yuǎn
Achieve Inner Peace; Find Deep Understanding Scroll

寧靜而致遠 is five characters from a longer ten-character proverb composed by Zhuge Liang about 1800 years ago.

Zhuge Liang

诸葛亮 Zhuge Liang

The proverb means, "Your inner peace / tranquility / serenity will help you see or reach far (into the world)".

The last word means "far" but the deeper meaning is that you will surpass what you can currently see or understand. Perhaps even the idea of opening up vast knowledge and understanding of complex ideas.

Ken Zen Ichi Nyo

ken zen ichi nyo
Ken Zen Ichi Nyo Scroll

This Japanese phrase is often translated as "train both body and spirit".

Here's the breakdown of the words in this phrase:
拳 means fist.
禅 is zen, which means meditation.
一如 is a word that means "to be just like", "oneness", "true nature", or "true character".

So to get to the translation of "train both body and spirit", you must understand that "fist" is representing "body" and the idea of mediation is representing "mind".

I have to say, this is not how I would translate this. To me, it's really about training with your mind and remembering that mediation is a huge part of training, not just your fist. As the Shaolin Buddhist monks show us, meditation is just as important as physical training in martial arts.

Learn New Ways From Old / Onkochishin

New ideas coming from past history
wēn gù zhī xīn
on ko chi shin
Learn New Ways From Old / Onkochishin Scroll

溫故知新 is a proverb from Confucius that is used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures.

It can be translated several ways:
Coming up with new ideas based on things learned in the past.
Examine things of the past, and obtain the new knowledge.
Developing new ideas based on the study of the past.
Gain new insights through restudying old issues.
Understand the present by reviewing the past.
Learning from the past.
Review the old and know the new.
Taking a lesson from the past.
Taking a lesson from the wisdom of the ancients.
Follow the old ways.

The direct translation would be, "By asking old things know new things".
The Character meanings breakdown this way:
溫故 = ask old
知新 = know new

Explained: To learn new things that are outside of your experience, you can learn from old things of the past. You can find wisdom from history.


溫 VS. 温

Note: Japanese use a variant of the first Kanji in modern times.
Therefore if you order this from a Japanese calligrapher, expect the first Kanji to look like 温 instead of 溫.

In addition to 温故知新 as mentioned above, this is sometimes written as 温古知新 in Japan.

Appreciation of Truth by Meditation

xīn yìn
shin nin
Appreciation of Truth by Meditation Scroll

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.


Reference: Soothill-Hodous Dictionary of Chinese Buddhism


See Also:  Zen

Zendo / The Zen Way

chán dào
zen dou
Zendo / The Zen Way Scroll

This title is used in certain contexts but is not widely-known by the general population of China or Japan.

From Japanese, you will see this title romanized as "zendo", which is the brand name of a board game, and also a title used by some martial arts studios and karate dojos. Oddly, many translate this as "zen fist" although there is no "fist" in the title. If you literally translated this title, it would be "meditation way" or "meditation method".

In Chinese, this would be "chan dao" with the same literal meaning as the Japanese title. It's used in China by just a handful of martial arts styles/studios.

You should only order this title if you really understand the meaning, and it has some personal connection to you (such as practicing a martial art style that uses this title, or if you love the board game Zendo). Many who see your wall scroll will not be familiar with this title, and you'll have some explaining to do.


禪The first character can also be written in a more complex traditional way as shown to the right. Let us know in the special instructions for your calligraphy project if you want this style.

禅If you order this from the Japanese master calligrapher, the first character will automatically be written with an extra dot on top. This is the variant form of the original Chinese character which is commonly used in modern Japan Kanji. See sample to the right.

No man knows what he owes to his parents until he comes to have children of his own

ko wo motte shiru oya no on
No man knows what he owes to his parents until he comes to have children of his own Scroll

This literally translates as: Only after you have a baby, you would appreciate your parents (feel the way they do, etc).

This is a bit like the "walk a mile in another man's shoes" saying. Basically, it's about you cannot fully understand the plight of others until you experience it yourself. It also shows appreciation for the plight of parents.

This Japanese proverb can also be translated a few more ways:

No man knows what he owes to his parents till he comes to have children of his own.

One knows not what one owes to one's parents till one comes to have children of one's own.

Only after you have a baby, you will appreciate your parents or feel the way they do.

Only after becoming a parent yourself do you realize how much you owe [how indebted you are] to your own parents.


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

An Open Book Benefits Your Mind

kāi juàn yǒu yì
An Open Book Benefits Your Mind Scroll

There are several ways to translate this ancient proverb. Translated literally and directly it says, "Open roll has/yields benefit".

To understand that, you must know a few things...

First, Chinese characters and language have deeper meanings that often are not spoken but are understood - especially with ancient text like this. Example: It's understood that the "benefit" referred to in this proverb is to the mind of the reader. Just the last character expresses that whole idea.

Second, Chinese proverbs are supposed to make you think, and leave a bit of mystery to figure out.

Third, for this proverb, it should be noted that roll = book. When this proverb came about (about two thousand years ago) books were really rolls of bamboo slips strung together. The first bound books like the ones we use today did not come about until about a thousand years after this proverb when they invented paper in China.

開卷有益 is a great gift for a bookworm who loves to read and increase their knowledge. Or for any friend that is or wants to be well-read.

Some other translations of this phrase:
Opening a book is profitable
The benefits of education.

qián
sen
Money Scroll

錢 is the simplest way to say "money" in Chinese.

It can also mean cash, coins, or currency. It's also a surname, Qian, in China.

銭 This also means coins in old Korean Hanja, and Japanese Kanji (though they use a slightly alternate form in Japan as seen to the right). In both Japan and Korea, this can simply mean "one cent".

金 On the left side of this character is a radical which means "gold" (or metal depending on context).

戋 戔 On the right are two repeated radicals which currently mean "small" or "narrow" but used to kind of mean "tools" or "weapon".

It's a bit of a stretch but you could suggest that money = "gold weapons" or "gold tools" in Chinese. Many Chinese people would argue otherwise depending on what they know of or the way they understand the etymology of the right side radical. I've seen some who say it means "industrialized gold" but I take that to mean "raw gold turned into coins".

chá yuán
Tea Fate Scroll

茶緣 is a special title for the tea lover. This kind of means "tea fate" but it's more spiritual and hard to define. Perhaps the tea brought you in to drink it. Perhaps the tea will bring you and another tea-lover together. Perhaps you were already there, and the tea came to you. Perhaps it's the ah-ha moment you will have when drinking the tea.

I've been told not to explain this further, as it will either dilute or confuse the purposefully-ambiguous idea embedded in this enigma.

I happen to be the owner of a piece of calligraphy written by either the son or nephew of the last emperor of China, and this is the title he wrote. It was given to me at a Beijing tea house in 2001. 茶緣 is where I learned to love tea after literally spending weeks tasting and studying everything I could about Chinese tea. I did not understand the significance of the authorship, or meaning of the title at all. Some 10 years later, I realized the gift was so profound and had such providence. Only now I realize the value of a gift that it is too late to give proper thanks for. It was also years later that I ended up in this business, and could have the artwork properly mounted as a wall scroll. It has been borrowed for many exhibitions and shows, and always amazes native Chinese and Taiwanese who read the signature. This piece of calligraphy which I once thought just a bit of ink on a thin and wrinkled piece of paper is now one of my most valued possessions. And by fate, it has taught me to be more thankful of seemingly simple gifts.

Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks

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

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 the 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 the 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


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

Title CharactersRomaji (Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Light
Bright
mei / myou / mei / myo / mei / myomíng / ming2 / ming
Reality醒悟 / 省悟
醒悟
xǐng wù / xing3 wu4 / xing wu / xingwuhsing wu / hsingwu
Reality
Realistic
現実性gen jitsu sei
genjitsusei
Great Aspirations
Ambition
鴻鵠之誌
鸿鹄之志
hóng hú zhī zhì
hong2 hu2 zhi1 zhi4
hong hu zhi zhi
honghuzhizhi
hung hu chih chih
hunghuchihchih
Never Forget永志不忘yǒng zhì bù wàng
yong3 zhi4 bu4 wang4
yong zhi bu wang
yongzhibuwang
yung chih pu wang
yungchihpuwang
Truth Flashed Through The Mind參悟
参悟
cān wù / can1 wu4 / can wu / canwuts`an wu / tsanwu / tsan wu
Wisdom知惠
知恵
chiezhī huì / zhi1 hui4 / zhi hui / zhihuichih hui / chihhui
A Life of Serenity Yields Understanding淡泊以明志寧靜而致遠
淡泊以明志宁静而致远
dàn bó yǐ míng zhì, níng jìng ér zhì yuǎn
dan4 bo2 yi3 ming2 zhi4, ning2 jing4 er2 zhi4 yuan3
dan bo yi ming zhi, ning jing er zhi yuan
tan po i ming chih, ning ching erh chih yüan
If you have not been a monk, how can you know what it is like to be a vegetarian?不當和尚不知齋戒苦
不当和尚不知斋戒苦
bù dāng hé shang bù zhī zhāi jiè kǔ
bu4 dang1 he2 shang bu4 zhi1 zhai1 jie4 ku3
bu dang he shang bu zhi zhai jie ku
pu tang ho shang pu chih chai chieh k`u
pu tang ho shang pu chih chai chieh ku
Abundance and Prosperity繁榮富裕
繁荣富裕
hanei yuuhuku
haneiyuuhuku
hanei yuhuku
haneiyuhuku
fán róng fù yù
fan2 rong2 fu4 yu4
fan rong fu yu
fanrongfuyu
fan jung fu yü
fanjungfuyü
1. Right Understanding
Right Perspective
Right View
Perfect View
正見
正见
sei ken / seikenzhèng jiàn
zheng4 jian4
zheng jian
zhengjian
cheng chien
chengchien
Satori
Enlightenment
sato / gowù / wu4 / wu
The Holy Trinity三位一體
三位一体
sān wèi yì tǐ
san1 wei4 yi4 ti3
san wei yi ti
sanweiyiti
san wei i t`i
sanweiiti
san wei i ti
Great Wisdom 般若hannyabō rě / bo1 re3 / bo re / borepo je / poje
Free Will自由意志jiyuu ishi / jiyuuishi / jiyu ishi / jiyuishizì yóu yì zhì
zi4 you2 yi4 zhi4
zi you yi zhi
ziyouyizhi
tzu yu i chih
tzuyuichih
Innovation革新kakushingé xīn / ge2 xin1 / ge xin / gexinko hsin / kohsin
Listen to Both Sides and be Enlightened, Listen to One Side and be in the Dark兼聽則明偏聽則暗
兼听则明偏听则暗
jiān tīng zé míng, piān tīng zé àn
jian1 ting1 ze2 ming2, pian1 ting1 ze2 an4
jian ting ze ming, pian ting ze an
chien t`ing tse ming, p`ien t`ing tse an
chien ting tse ming, pien ting tse an
Daodejing
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33
知人者知也自知者明也勝人者有力也自勝者強也知足者富也強行者有志也不失其所者久也死而不亡者壽也
知人者知也自知者明也胜人者有力也自胜者强也知足者富也强行者有志也不失其所者久也死而不亡者寿也
zhī rén zhě zhī yě zì zhī zhě míng yě shèng rén zhě yǒu lì yě zì shèng zhě qiáng yě zhī zú zhě fù yě qiáng xíng zhě yǒu zhì yě bù zhī qí suǒ zhě jiǔ yě sǐ ér bù wáng zhě shòu yě
zhi1 ren2 zhe3 zhi1 ye3 zi4 zhi1 zhe3 ming2 ye3 sheng4 ren2 zhe3 you3 li4 ye3 zi4 sheng4 zhe3 qiang2 ye3 zhi1 zu2 zhe3 fu4 ye3 qiang2 xing2 zhe3 you3 zhi4 ye3 bu4 zhi1 qi2 suo3 zhe3 jiu3 ye3 si3 er2 bu4 wang2 zhe3 shou4 ye3
zhi ren zhe zhi ye zi zhi zhe ming ye sheng ren zhe you li ye zi sheng zhe qiang ye zhi zu zhe fu ye qiang xing zhe you zhi ye bu zhi qi suo zhe jiu ye si er bu wang zhe shou ye
chih jen che chih yeh tzu chih che ming yeh sheng jen che yu li yeh tzu sheng che ch`iang yeh chih tsu che fu yeh ch`iang hsing che yu chih yeh pu chih ch`i so che chiu yeh ssu erh pu wang che shou yeh
chih jen che chih yeh tzu chih che ming yeh sheng jen che yu li yeh tzu sheng che chiang yeh chih tsu che fu yeh chiang hsing che yu chih yeh pu chih chi so che chiu yeh ssu erh pu wang che shou yeh
Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself知彼知己zhí bǐ zhí jī
zhi2 bi3 zhi2 ji1
zhi bi zhi ji
zhibizhiji
chih pi chih chi
chihpichihchi
The Night is Darkest Before the Dawn黎明前的黑暗lí míng qián de hēi àn
li2 ming2 qian2 de hei1 an4
li ming qian de hei an
limingqiandeheian
li ming ch`ien te hei an
limingchienteheian
li ming chien te hei an
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
Peace of Mind內心的寧靜
内心的宁静
nèi xīn de níng jìng
nei4 xin1 de ning2 jing4
nei xin de ning jing
neixindeningjing
nei hsin te ning ching
neihsinteningching
Satori
Enlightenment
悟りsatori
Enthusiasm
Passion for a Cause
情熱
情热
jou netsu / jounetsu / jo netsu / jonetsuqíng rè / qing2 re4 / qing re / qingrech`ing je / chingje / ching je
Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself, and You Cannot Lose知彼知己百戰不殆
知彼知己百战不殆
zhí bǐ zhí jī bǎi zhàn bú dài
zhi2 bi3 zhi2 ji1 bai3 zhan4 bu2 dai4
zhi bi zhi ji bai zhan bu dai
zhibizhijibaizhanbudai
chih pi chih chi pai chan pu tai
Loyalty
Devotion
忠義
忠义
chuu gi / chuugi / chu gi / chugizhōng yì / zhong1 yi4 / zhong yi / zhongyichung i / chungi
Great Ambitions乘風破浪
乘风破浪
chéng fēng pò làng
cheng2 feng1 po4 lang4
cheng feng po lang
chengfengpolang
ch`eng feng p`o lang
chengfengpolang
cheng feng po lang
Reincarnation
Transmigration of Souls
輪回 / 輪廻
轮回
rin ne / rinnelún huí / lun2 hui2 / lun hui / lunhui
Cooperation
Collaboration
協作
协作
kyou saku / kyousaku / kyo saku / kyosakuxié zuò / xie2 zuo4 / xie zuo / xiezuohsieh tso / hsiehtso
Wing Chun詠春
咏春
ei haru / eiharuyǒng chūn
yong3 chun1
yong chun
yongchun
yung ch`un
yungchun
yung chun
Keep Calm in Face of Adversity失意泰然shitsuitaizen
Seven Heavenly Virtues信仰希望慈善堅忍正義慎重節制
信仰希望慈善坚忍正义慎重节制
shinkou kibou jizen kennin seigi shinchou sessei
shinko kibo jizen kennin seigi shincho sesei
shinkokibojizenkenninseigishinchosesei
xìn yǎng xī wàng cí shàn jiān rěn zhèng yì shèn zhòng jié zhì
xin4 yang3 xi1 wang4 ci2 shan4 jian1 ren3 zheng4 yi4 shen4 zhong4 jie2 zhi4
xin yang xi wang ci shan jian ren zheng yi shen zhong jie zhi
hsin yang hsi wang tz`u shan chien jen cheng i shen chung chieh chih
hsin yang hsi wang tzu shan chien jen cheng i shen chung chieh chih
Achieve Inner Peace; Find Deep Understanding寧靜而致遠
宁静而致远
níng jìng ér zhì yuǎn
ning2 jing4 er2 zhi4 yuan3
ning jing er zhi yuan
ningjingerzhiyuan
ning ching erh chih yüan
ningchingerhchihyüan
Ken Zen Ichi Nyo拳禪一如
拳禅一如
ken zen ichi nyo
kenzenichinyo
Learn New Ways From Old
Onkochishin
溫故知新
温故知新
on ko chi shin
onkochishin
wēn gù zhī xīn
wen1 gu4 zhi1 xin1
wen gu zhi xin
wenguzhixin
wen ku chih hsin
wenkuchihhsin
Appreciation of Truth by Meditation心印shin nin / shinninxīn yìn / xin1 yin4 / xin yin / xinyinhsin yin / hsinyin
Zendo
The Zen Way
禅道 / 禪道
禅道
zen dou / zendou / zen do / zendochán dào / chan2 dao4 / chan dao / chandaoch`an tao / chantao / chan tao
No man knows what he owes to his parents until he comes to have children of his own子を持って知る親の恩ko wo motte shiru oya no on
kowomotteshiruoyanoon
An Open Book Benefits Your Mind開卷有益
开卷有益
kāi juàn yǒu yì
kai1 juan4 you3 yi4
kai juan you yi
kaijuanyouyi
k`ai chüan yu i
kaichüanyui
kai chüan yu i
Money錢 / 銭
senqián / qian2 / qianch`ien / chien
Tea Fate茶緣
茶缘
chá yuán / cha2 yuan2 / cha yuan / chayuanch`a yüan / chayüan / cha yüan
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.


Many custom options...


Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Scroll
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Scroll
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Scroll
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Scroll


And formats...

Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Vertical Portrait
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Horizontal Wall Scroll
Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks Vertical Portrait
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Lookup I Understand in my Japanese & Chinese Dictionary


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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 I Understand Kanji, I Understand Characters, I Understand in Mandarin Chinese, I Understand Characters, I Understand in Chinese Writing, I Understand in Japanese Writing, I Understand in Asian Writing, I Understand Ideograms, Chinese I Understand symbols, I Understand Hieroglyphics, I Understand Glyphs, I Understand in Chinese Letters, I Understand Hanzi, I Understand in Japanese Kanji, I Understand Pictograms, I Understand in the Chinese Written-Language, or I Understand in the Japanese Written-Language.

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