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1. Ba Gua
7. Fire Tiger
10. Four Elements
12. Gold / Metal
20. Wind and Rain
23. Wind of Change
身心 means “body and mind” or “mental and physical” in Chinese and Japanese.
In the Buddhist context, body and mind encompass the five elements (skandha) of a sentient being.
The body is the physical material (rūpa) of life. The mind embraces the other four skandhas, which are consciousness, perception, action, and knowledge.
清 is a word that means clarity or clear in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
Looking at the parts of this character, you have three splashes of water on the left, “life” on the top right, and the moon on the lower right.
Because of something Confucius said about 2500 years ago, you can imagine that this character means “live life with clarity like bright moonlight piercing pure water.” The Confucian idea is something like “Keep clear what is pure in yourself, and let your pure nature show through.” Kind of like saying, “Don't pollute your mind or body, so that they remain clear.”
This might be stretching the definition of this single Chinese character but the elements are there, and “clarity” is a powerful idea.
Korean note: Korean pronunciation is given above but this character is written with a slight difference in the "moon radical" in Korean. However, anyone who can read Korean Hanja, will understand this character with no problem (this is considered an alternate form in Korean). If you want the more standard Korean Hanja form (which is an alternate form in Chinese), just let me know.
Japanese note: When reading in Japanese, this Kanji has additional meanings of pure, purify, or cleanse (sometimes to remove demons or "exorcise"). Used more in compound words in Japanese than as a stand-alone Kanji.
(One of the five elements)
土 is earth, soil, ground, or Terra.
Earth is one of the five elements that ancient Chinese believed all things were composed of. These elements are also part of the cycle of Chinese astrology. Every person has both an animal sign, and one of the five elements according to the date of their birth.
(Used in Japanese version of five elements)
地 is the single-character element and title of the planet Earth in Chinese, old Korean Hanja, and Japanese Kanji.
Because this is a single character, the definition is a little ambiguous and can have many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. These meanings include: earth, ground, land, soil, dirt, place, territory, bottom (of a package, book, etc.), earth (one of the Japanese five elements), the region in question, the local area, skin, texture, fabric, material, weave, base, background, one's true nature, narrative (i.e. descriptive part of a story), real life, actuality, etc.
In Japanese, this Kanji can be pronounced several ways, including chi, ji, tsushi, or tsuchi.
地 is also an element of the Japanese version of the five elements (the original Chinese version uses a different version of earth).
(Used in Japanese version of five elements)
空 is a single character that means empty, void, hollow, vacant, vacuum, blank, nonexistent, vacuity, voidness, emptiness, non-existence, immateriality, unreality, the false or illusory nature of all existence, and being unreal.
In the Buddhist context, this relates to the doctrine that all phenomena and the ego have no reality but are composed of a certain number of skandhas or elements, which disintegrate. The void, the sky, space. The universal, the absolute, complete abstraction without relativity. The doctrine further explains that all things are compounds, or unstable organisms, possessing no self-essence, i.e. are dependent, or caused, come into existence only to perish. The underlying reality, the principle of eternal relativity, or non-infinity, i.e. śūnya, permeates all phenomena making possible their evolution.
From Sanskrit and/or Pali, this is the translation to Chinese and Japanese of the title śūnya or śūnyatā.
In Japanese, when pronounced as “ron” (sounds like “roan”) this can be a given name. It should be noted that this Kanji has about 5 different possible pronunciations in Japanese: kuu, kara, sora, ron, and uro. 空 is also an element in the Japanese version of the five elements.
(One of the five elements)
火 is the symbol for fire, flame, or blaze in Chinese, Korean and Japanese.
Fire is one of the five elements that ancient Chinese believed all things were composed of. These elements are also part of the cycle of Chinese astrology. Every person has both an animal sign, and one of the five elements according to the date of their birth. See also Five Elements and Chinese 12 Animals / Zodiac.
See Also: Five Elements
火虎 is the Chinese and Japanese title for “fire tiger.”
If you were born between 9 Feb 1986 and 28 Jan 1987, or between 13 Feb 1926 and 1 Feb 1927, you are a fire tiger according to the Chinese Zodiac.
There are 12 animals and 5 elements in the cycle. Therefore, the fire tiger comes around once every 60 years. The next will be in 2046.
The branch of the zodiac for tiger is written 寅 when dating ancient documents and artwork, but 虎 is the way to write the character for an actual tiger.
五行太極拳 is a certain school or style of Tai Chi (Taiji).
The characters literally mean “Five Elements Tai Chi Fist.”
In Taiwan, it would be Romanized as “Wu Hsing Tai Chi Chuan” - see the standard Mandarin method above in the gray box (used in mainland China and the official Romanization used by the Library of Congress).
The last three characters are sometimes translated as “Grand Ultimate Fist,” so the whole thing can be “Five Elements Grand Ultimate Fist” if you wish.
I have not confirmed the use of this title in Korean but if it is used, it's probably only by martial arts enthusiasts. The pronunciation is correct, as shown above for Korean.
五行 is the title of the five elements: wood, fire, water, earth, and metal.
The first character means five, and the second character is simply element(s).
According to ancient Chinese science, all matter in the world is comprised of these elements. One idea presented with the five elements is that when energy is added, the matter is believed to expand. When energy is removed, matter contracts. Oddly, this concept is not far from Einstein's theories and modern science. Just a few thousand years before Einstein.
More info: Wikipedia - Five Elements (Wu Xing).
金木水火土 is a list of the Chinese characters for the five elements in a comfortable order (meaning that they “feel right” to a Chinese person who views this arrangement).
The order is metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
Note that sometimes the metal element is translated as gold. And earth refers to soil versus the whole planet earth.
地水火風空 is the specifically-Japanese version of the five elements.
This is a little different than the ancient or original Chinese version.
The elements are written in this order:
1. Earth / Terra / Ground
4. Wind / Air
5. Sky / Emptiness / Void / Ether
Note: This set of Kanji can also be romanized as “ji sui ka fuu kuu,” “jisuikafuukuu,” or “jisuikafuku.”
These can also be written in the order 地火風水空 (chi ka sui fuu kuu). Let me know when you place your order if you want the Kanji to be in this character order.
地水火風 is a Buddhist term that means “earth, water, fire, wind.”
This is often just referred to as “the four elements.” There is a more common title (the five elements) that adds wood to the mix. These four elements are used in some sects of Japanese Buddhism (not so much in Chinese).
五大 is the Japanese title for the five elements.
In Japan, the five elements differ slightly from the original Chinese. Therefore, in Japanese philosophy, you have earth, water, fire, wind, and void (space).
The meaning of the first character is 5, but the second character means great or large. Some translate this as the five majors. 大 is only understood as “elements” when you have 五 in front of it.
In Buddhism, this can be short for 五大明王, or the five great and wise kings.
(One of the five elements)
金 is the symbol for metal (often means gold or money) in Chinese, Korean and Japanese.
In an interesting twist, in Japanese, this Kanji can also mean “Friday.” I guess Friday is “the golden day” in Japan.
Gold / Metal is one of the five elements that ancient Chinese believed all things were composed of. These elements are also part of the cycle of Chinese astrology. Every person has both an animal sign, and one of the five elements according to the date of their birth. See also Five Elements and Chinese 12 Animals / Zodiac.
土星 is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja for the planet Saturn.
The literal meaning of these characters is “earth star.” The earth character is one of the five elements of Chinese culture. This earth character regards soil or dirt, not the planet Earth.
Saturn has been titled 土星 for at least 2000 years.
In Mahayana Buddhism, 四大 represents mahābhūta, the four elements of which all things are made: earth, water, fire, and wind.
This can also represent the four freedoms: speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big-character posters.
In some contexts, this can be a university or college offering four-year programs.
To others, this can represent the Tao, Heaven, Earth, and King.
Going back to the Buddhist context, these four elements “earth, water, fire, and wind,” represent 堅, 濕, 煖, 動, which are: solid, liquid, heat, and motion.
心技体 is the Japanese title “shin gi tai” or “shingitai.”
This can refer to the three elements of Sumo wrestlers or martial artists, “heart-technique-physique.”
Here is what each character represents:
心 (shin) mind, heart, and spirit.
技 (gi) skill, knowledge, and experience.
体 (tai) body and physical effort.
心技体 have the same meanings in Chinese, though this title is used much more often in Japanese.
鋼 is the Chinese character and Japanese Kanji for steel (as in iron mixed with carbon and other elements to make it stronger).
This can also be the name Hagane in Japanese. Like Mr. Steel in English. It can also be pronounced as Tsuyoshi or Kou when used as a personal or given name in Japan.
Wa Kei Sei Jaku
和, 敬, 清, 寂 or Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku are the principles of the way of tea or 茶道.
The meanings are:
Harmony 和 (wa).
Respect 敬 (kei).
Purity 清 (sei).
Tranquility 寂 (jaku).
These principles or tenets were created by tea master Sen Rikyu (1522-1591). More about these ideas: Chanoyu
See Also: The Way of Tea
(One of the five elements)
水 is the symbol for water in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
Water is one of the five elements that ancient Chinese believed all things were composed of. These elements are also part of the cycle of Chinese astrology. Every person has both an animal sign, and one of the five elements according to the date of their birth. See also Five Elements and Chinese 12 Animals / Zodiac.
風雨 is wind and rain in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
This can also refer to the elements of trials and hardships (in life).
(One of the five elements)
木 is the symbol for wood in Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
This can sometimes mean “tree” depending on context. In fact, the character comes from a pictogram that is supposed to resemble a tree.
Wood is one of the five elements that ancient Chinese believed all things were composed of. These elements are also part of the cycle of Chinese astrology. Every person has both an animal sign, and one of the five elements according to the date of their birth. See also Five Elements and Chinese 12 Animals / Zodiac.
風雲變幻 is a Chinese proverb that means “wind of change” or “changeable situation.”
The first character, 風, means wind, but when combined with the second character, 風雲, you have weather, winds and clouds, nature, or the elements. Colloquially, this can refer to an unstable situation or state of affairs.
The last two characters, 變幻, mean change or fluctuate.
The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Romaji (Romanized Japanese)
|Various forms of Romanized Chinese
|bā guà / ba1 gua4 / ba gua / bagua
|pa kua / pakua
|Body and Mind
|shin jin / shinjin
|shēn xīn / shen1 xin1 / shen xin / shenxin
|shen hsin / shenhsin
|qīng / qing1 / qing
|ch`ing / ching
|tǔ / tu3 / tu
|t`u / tu
|chi / ji / tsushi / tsuchi
|dì / di4 / di
|kuu / kara / sora / ron
ku / kara / sora / ron
|kōng / kong1 / kong
|k`ung / kung
|huǒ / huo3 / huo
|hi tora / hitora
|huǒ hǔ / huo3 hu3 / huo hu / huohu
|Five Elements Tai Chi Fist
|go gyou tai kyoku ken
go gyo tai kyoku ken
|wǔ xíng tài jí quán
wu3 xing2 tai4 ji2 quan2
wu xing tai ji quan
|wu hsing t`ai chi ch`üan
wu hsing tai chi chüan
|gogyou / gogyo
|wǔ xíng / wu3 xing2 / wu xing / wuxing
|wu hsing / wuhsing
|jīn mù shuǐ huǒ tǔ
jin1 mu4 shui3 huo3 tu3
jin mu shui huo tu
|chin mu shui huo t`u
chin mu shui huo tu
|chi sui ka fuu kuu
chi sui ka fu ku
|dì shuǐ huǒ fēng
di4 shui3 huo3 feng1
di shui huo feng
|ti shui huo feng
|wǔ dà / wu3 da4 / wu da / wuda
|wu ta / wuta
|jīn / jin1 / jin
|to shou / toshou / to sho
|tǔ xīng / tu3 xing1 / tu xing / tuxing
|t`u hsing / tuhsing / tu hsing
|shi dai / shidai
|sì dà / si4 da4 / si da / sida
|ssu ta / ssuta
Shin Gi Tai
|shin gi tai
|xīn jì tǐ
xin1 ji4 ti3
xin ji ti
|hsin chi t`i
hsin chi ti
|ten kuu / tenkuu / ten ku
|gāng / gang1 / gang
|Elements of the Tea Ceremony
|wa kei sei jaku
|mizu / sui
|shuǐ / shui3 / shui
|Wind and Rain
|fuu-u / fu-u
|fēng yǔ / feng1 yu3 / feng yu / fengyu
|feng yü / fengyü
|mù / mu4 / mu
|Earth Fire Water Air
|Wind of Change
|fēng yún biàn huàn
feng1 yun2 bian4 huan4
feng yun bian huan
|feng yün pien huan
|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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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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