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60+ Unique Ideas for Chinese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

By Jason Hamilton / June 11, 2020
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A text tattoo is one of the best designs out there that you can never go wrong with. This is because it can inspire you or others and you can even personalize it. It can also catch some attention, especially if it’s written in another language. And if you want such body art, one of the designs that we can highly recommend is the Chinese calligraphy tattoos.

But before you give it a go, how can you really tell if it’s a Chinese tattoo or not?

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Korean vs. Japanese vs. Chinese Calligraphy

If you’re not much familiar with East Asian scripts, the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese calligraphy characters might look the same to you. But don’t worry, we got your back in achieving that perfect Chinese calligraphy tattoo as we can give you some ideas and tips on how you can differentiate these three different scripts from each other.

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For starters, Korean writing is often composed of ovals, circles, and open squares, when we’re talking about the modern script. Its older text, however, is mixed with Chinese characters.

Meanwhile, to identify Japanese script, note that it has more loose curvy lines. And unlike the Korean script, some of its characters only require a single stroke of the pen to produce. However, some of its characters sometimes resemble Chinese characters. If you’re still a bit confused, look for the character “の.” Neither Korean nor Chinese have anything that looks like this character.

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Chinese script, on the other hand, has more complex square characters compared to Korean and Japanese scripts. It is much more detailed and the strokes of the characters don’t cross outside the square perimeter of any character.

In spite of its complexity, it still has its own beauty that no one can resist using as a tattoo. Also, it’s not just meaningful but it also has some mystery to it, especially if you’re not a native Chinese speaker. And because of this, it is not that of a surprise why even celebrities opt for this kind of design. Here are some celebrities and personalities that have Chinese calligraphy tattoos that you can take inspiration from.

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Celebs and Personalities with Chinese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

Justin Bieber’s 曲 () tattoo stands for song

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Nicki Minaj’s tattoo reads上帝與你常在 (Shàngdì yǔ nǐ cháng zài), or “God is always with you” when translated

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Chris Evans’ tattoo reads 氏 (shì) or “family” in English

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Jack Bauer’s tattoo 力 () symbolizes power

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Julia Roberts’ back tattoo means love

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Angelina Jolie’s back tattoo means “death”

Sam Frost flashes her ankle tattoo that means “strength”

Megan Fox also has the same tattoo as Sam Frost’s but placed on her nape

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Justin Timberlake had “wind earth water” tattooed on  his ribs for his role in Alpha Dog

Britney Spears has a 奇 () tattoo that means queer or odd

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MC Jin has his name tattooed in Chinese calligraphy

Matthew Fox quoted a line from Chairman Mao’s poem that translates to “eagles fly up in the sky”

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David Beckham has a Chinese parable tattooed on the side of his torso that translates to “Death and life have determined appointments/riches and honors depend upon heaven”

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Stephen Baldwin has a Chinese tattoo that means “believe”

Holly Valance’s tattoo means “love”

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Nick Carter has a tattoo that means “Poseidon”

Allen Iverson has a Chinese calligraphy tattoo on his neck that translates to “center of the universe;” it also means “center of attention”

Stephon Marbury also has his name tattooed in Chinese script (on his left arm); on his right torso, he also has a tattoo that means “love is love;” and on his left torso, he has another one that translates to “dynasty of Beijing”

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Marcus Camby chose  族 (), meaning clan, and 勉 (miǎn), meaning to urge or to strive for, for his right bicep tattoo and “I want to be the best” for his left bicep

Chris Anderson has “good” and “bad/nauseated” tattoos

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Shawn Marion also had his name tattooed in Chinese script

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Kenyon Martin also got a Chinese calligraphy tattoo and this one means”not aggressive” or “indecisive”

Mike Miller has 命 (mìng) etched on his left forearm meaning “life” or “fate”

Marat Safin had his Chinese Zodiac sign inked

Fabio Cannavaro had  瑪丁娜 (Mǎ dīn gnà) inked on his back to honor his daughter Martina

Chinese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings Placement

Chinese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings are really nice options for body art. But where should you place them?

If you’re going to ask us, it’s just a matter of pain tolerance and your confidence showing your tattoo to the world. Trust us, it will not change its meaning. Here are some popular tattoo placements, their meanings, and the level of pain that it could cause you that might give you some ideas in case you’re eyeing for this kind of tattoo style.

Upper Arm/Bicep

This is one of the safest spots in the body to place a tattoo. This is because, first of all, it has enough muscles and fats to cushion you from the prickly needles that will be used to ink you. Also, this spot is easy to cover. In case situations may require you to hide your tattoo, you can just wear a top with sleeves and you’re good to go. Even tops with short sleeves will do. Here are some Chinese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings that you might want to consider for the upper part of your arm.

A Chinese inscription on the bicep that reads “God is with me always”

This one means “loyalty”

This one is inspired by the 1965 science fiction novel Dune

This one will show your funny side as this literally means “I don’t know, I don’t speak Chinese”

Forearm

The forearm is one of the spots that is for the bolder ones. People getting a tattoo in this area not afraid of what people will say as this spot is, needless to say, is more exposed than the upper part of the arm. And if you were to hide it, you will need to wear tops with long sleeves which are not always convenient depending on the weather. It also has lesser muscles to cushion you from the needles. Hence, expect to feel more pain in this area.

This tattoo reads “loyalty, honor, and respect”

Another tattoo that reads”God is with me always” but is placed on the forearm

This one also literally means “I don’t speak Chinese”

This one is combined with English name tattoos

Wrist

The wrist area, like the forearm, is also for the bolder ones. Compared to the first two placements we’ve mentioned, this spot is more exposed. And like the forearm, it also has a lesser cushion. Also, this part only has limited space so you have to choose your tattoo wisely.

This wrist tattoo means “love” when translated to English

This wrist tattoo also means “love” and is combined with an English word tattoo

These Chinese calligraphy tattoos mean “courage” and “strength”

Ribs

The rib area is also one of the safest parts of the body to ink a tattoo too. But unlike the Upper part of the arm, you can hide tattoos in this area unless you go to the beach. But the downside is that tattoos placed in this area are more painful. This is because, unlike the forearm, it really doesn’t have much muscle to cushion you unless you’re a bit on the thicker side.

A name tattoo in Chinese text

An inspirational tattoo that will always remind you to “believe in yourself”

A Chinese calligraphy tattoo to honor your dad

Chest

Like the ribs, the chest is also a safe part if you want to hide your tattoo. You also have more control over the tattoos in this area. All you have to do is wear a top that isn’t too revealing and you’re all set. However, it also doesn’t have much muscle to cushion you.

A tattoo just like David Beckham’s (which means “Death and life have pre-determined appointments; riches and honor are from heaven”) but is placed on the chest

A chest Chinese calligraphy tattoo that means “courage”

A Chinese calligraphy tattoo that looks like hand brushed

Back

The back is also a safe place to place a tattoo if you’re not that confident to show your tattoo to everyone. However, the level of pain of the tattoos placed here depends. If you will place a tattoo near your spinal column or shoulder blades, expect more pain. Remember the boney the area is, the more painful it will get.

A calligraphy tattoo placed on the upper portion of the back

This tattoo is placed on the spinal column area

A Chinese calligraphy tattoo written horizontally just below the nape

If you want to spice up your Chinese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings, you can also add more details like the following:

Chinese Zodiac

If you want something more personalized, adding your Chinese zodiac sign to your Chinese calligraphy tattoo is also a nice idea. This will show a bit of who you are and your personality as well. Here are the 12 Chinese zodiacs that you might want to consider depending on your birthdate.

For people born under the Year of the Rat

A tattoo for people born under the Year of the Ox

For people born under the Year of the Tiger

For the people born under the Year of the Rabbit

For those who were born under the Year of the Dragon

For those born under the Year of the Snake

For the Year of the Horse

For people born under the Year of the Goat

For the ones born under the Year of the Monkey

For the people born under the Yea of the Rooster

For the ones who were born under the Year of the Dog

For the ones born under the Year of the Boar/Pig

Name

Another added detail that will make your tattoo all the more personalized is having your name tattooed in Chinese. You can also add the name of your loved one if you want to honor them like your mom’s name, your dad, etc. Check out these name tattoos in Chinese.

A name tattoo placed on the ankle

A name tattoo placed on the forearm

A name tattoo placed on the upper right part of the back

Color

Chinese calligraphy tattoos in black ink are common. If you want to spice it up and make it look more lively and unique, why not add some colors to it? Here are some samples on how you can give your Chinese calligraphy tattoos some more oomph.

A Chinese calligraphy tattoo with splats of blue ink as backdrop tattooed on the back

This one has a more colorful background and is paired with a cat tattoo

A gradient Chinese calligraphy tattoo

Other Symbols

Word tattoos like a Chinese calligraphy tattoo are very versatile. You can add it to any symbol. From dragons to flowers, you can add any symbol you want. Doing so can also make your Chinese calligraphy tattoo even more significant. Flower tattoos alone have a lot of meanings and representations which can make your tattoo more meaningful. Here are some ideas on that.

This calligraphy tattoo is paired with a flower and bird tattoo

A Chinese calligraphy paired with a flower tattoo

A Chinese calligraphy paired with cherry blossoms tattoos on the ribs area

Calligraphy tattoos just like the Chinese script is definitely eye-catching and can contain a lot of meaning. It is also very versatile that you can pair it with various symbols. For that reason, it’s one of the popular script tattoos that many love and it’s not going to be a surprise if you’ll love it too.


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About the author

Jason Hamilton

Jason has been an avid fan of tattoos for over 13 years now. He is currently 35 years old, and he got his first tattoo at the age of 22. Since then, he has added over 20 tattoos to his collection. He is also into writing, which is why he decided to celebrate both of his passion and hobby through tats ‘n’ rings. Jason dreams of having his very own tattoo parlor soon. Jason would be very happy to answer any questions about tattoos that you may have! Leave a comment below and he’ll answer it for you right away!

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