Calligraphy Translations:

Here are some quick translations and comments on our T-Shirt calligraphy characters. The designs intentionally leave off the English because the translations are often complex and the meanings personal. In our experience, they often start interesting conversations when people ask what they "say". We encourage you to research and explore the deeper, personal meanings which make your character selection special to you.

Pinyin: Qi; (Wades Giles: Ch'i).

Literally translated to air, breath or gas. But in the context of Chinese philosophy or medicine, Qi is most often translated as "intrinsic energy" or "life force". Most importantly, it means many things depending on the context of it's useage. See for in-depth research and discussion.


Pinyin: Qigong; (Wades Giles: Ch'i Kung).

The cultivation of Qi or the study of things involving Qi (see above). But in modern times, the term is mostly used to describe various exercises that cultivate Qi for medical, spiritual, or health/longevity purposes.


Pinyin: Dao; (Wades Giles: Tao).

a Chinese concept signifying 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, The Dao is the intuitive knowing of "life" that of which cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but known nonetheless through actual living experience of one's everyday being.


Pinyin: Taiji; (Wades Giles: T'ai Chi).

A Chinese cosmological term for the "Supreme Ultimate" state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potential, the oneness before duality, from which Yin and Yang originate. The term Taiji and its Wades Giles spelling of T'ai chi are most commonly used in the West to refer to Taijiquan, an internal martial art and health promoting exercise based on the principles of Taiji.


Pinyin: He; (Wades Giles: Ho).

Harmony. The character consists of two parts, 禾 which has given the character its pronunciation and the chracter 口 (kǒu) "mouth". Together, they portray the traditional Chinese ideal of harmony between nature and humankind. This ideal also carries the associated meanings of balance and order, duty and diligence, respect and appreciation, and peaceful coexistence and cooperation.


Pinyin: Wu Wei; (Wades Giles: Wu Wei).

An important concept in Daoism that literally means non-action or non-doing. In the Daodejing, Laozi explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Dao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way.


Pinyin: Lóng; (Wades Giles: Lung).

Dragon. Unlike castle-burning dragons of Western stories, Chinese dragons are a benevolent symbol in Chinese culture and symbolize potent and auspicious powers. The dragon is also a symbol of strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it. The Dragon was a symbol of imperial authority.


Pinyin: Jué; (Wades Giles: chüeh).

Intuition: Instinct, subconscious knowledge. An important concept in the Chinese holistic way of thinking. A natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking. The ability to understand something immediately without needing to think about it. It is said the Chinese mind tends to understand reality intuitively rather than logically.


Pinyin: Shou; (Wades Giles: Shou).

Longevity, long life: A combination of age and birthday. Longevity, as defined in the west, means merely the quantity or long duration of life. Longevity or "Chang Shou" in China is used with reverence for someone who enjoys the blessing of living a long time and having a quality of life.


Pinyin: ; (martial)

"Wu"; means "Martial" and is used in Martial Arts (wǔshu) or a Warrior (wǔshì). It is common to see the Wu character displayed in kungfu studios and signage. Note: This character is different from the Wu character used in dance.


Pinyin: ài; (Love)

The character for Love can also be translated as affection, to cherish, to deeply love, to treasure, etc. Unlike Western culture, it is not expressed often and is reserved for special occasions or spiritual connections. This character for love, comes from deep in the heart—-true love.


Pinyin: Chan; (Zen).

The character for Zen simply means Meditation, but it has become associated with Mahayana Buddhism which emphasizes sitting meditation in its practice. Originating in India and spreading through China as Chan Buddhism (the Chan character in Japanese is pronounced "Zen"), Zen is popular through the world.