Agony of choice for Chinese characters as a tattoo – the calligraphy expert recommendsThe Chinese script includes ca. 85.000 characters. All the more surprising how many characters regularly find themselves under the laser. In the tattoolos ranking of the most removed tattoos they almost always end up in the TOP 10 – apparently Chinese characters as tattoos are anything but harmless. We asked Jurgen Schatzel from Glienicke near Berlin for his opinion.
Mr. Schatzel, you are occupied for ten years with Chinese calligraphy (the art of painting Chinese characters and/or. to write beautifully). How did it come?
After more than 40 years of work I felt too young to retire. The fact that I no longer had a salaried employment relationship that was subject to compulsory insurance, I understood as a chance. Already long before I occupied myself, together with my wife Kai van Koolwijk, with the far eastern teachings of the Feng Shui.
Since 2006 I learn Chinese in speech and writing. The course material is very extensive. Will never run out.
With whom did you apprentice?
I owe most of it to the calligrapher Mrs. Su Chen Chung-Kuai. Since her childhood she writes nothing else. Has received many awards. I will never reach her level. Sometimes I think, in her veins flows Chinese ink. Their knowledge gives the Taiwanese among other things with the society for German-Chinese friendship in Berlin-Schoneberg, at the Konfuzius institute in Berlin-Dahlem and in the buddhistischen community Berlin further. She teaches her students to put the beat of the heart on paper. From Mrs. Li Yuhong I learned a lot about the culture of the country besides the Chinese language. My Chinese teacher Dr. Erich Gutinger is my only non-native speaker and by the way the only one who teaches Chinese short and long writing in Berlin and Brandenburg. There are numerous other companions from whom I learn in workshops and seminars. I was particularly fascinated by the Japanese Kazuaki Tanahashi. I met the US-based Zen calligraphy artist in Berlin in 2014.
What do you personally think about tattoos?
To be honest: not much. I think the price of a tattoo is in stark contrast to its removal, not to mention the pain and mental strain of having something on your skin that doesn't look the way you thought it would. I would also not tattoo everything on the skin. However, I also notice particularly beautiful tattoos. So, some time ago I saw a really successful horse at a woman's house, of course depicted in Chinese calligraphy.
Let's take an example from the tattoolos everyday life. What do you say?
It was tattooed so lovelessly that it borders on bodily harm in my opinion. About the font you can only laugh out loud 笑 = xiào. Above is love 愛 ài. Spoken with the diacritical mark of the fourth tone, that is, the pitch goes from top to bottom. At the bottom is laughter 笑 xiào. The above character combination means "funny/fun" – who wants to walk around with that for a lifetime…? (Source: W. Fuchsenberger Chinese-German Universal Dictionary 2008).
If one translates into Latin Romansh, one uses the currently official phonetic language "Pinyin" with the four stresses. Simply explained, this means that all vowels A, E, I, O, U can be used four times. The diacritical marks for the correct accentuation are in the pinyin transcription as a pronunciation aid above the vowel and show the correct accentuation. This should suffice for a first introduction to Chinese.
Here we have another example. The customer was convinced 14 years, the character is called tiger. But it should have crept in a spelling mistake.
I'll have it in a moment, I'll show you in my pocket dictionary. As I said, there are over 85.000 Chinese characters. A consolation for all: from 1.000 characters can be read in a newspaper.
Mr. Schatzel, if someone would like to carry however absolutely Chinese characters on the skin – what do you advise??
For a good-looking Chinese tattoo, I recommend the Kăi shū font, a readable model font. Or the almost illegible artist's script căo shū, a cursive script. But the tattoo master must be skilled. Combinations of two characters often make a different sense in context. Thus also immediately another meaning. So be careful! I would not tattoo every character either.
Unhesitating are, as here for example, the binomial (polysyllabic) characters for "health" – jiàn kāng. For a tattoo possibly too boring, as calligraphy hangs in a practice.
Do you think it makes sense to get artistic advice before tattooing Chinese characters?
(laughs) Yes, of course, before you have to live with a disaster on your skin for years, it can't do any harm in principle. Becoming knowledgeable would certainly be even more important for tattoo artists. I am open to such requests.
Calligraphy, like Feng Shui, has a deeper meaning. Sometimes a few decisions or changes, for example, in the home furnishings, are enough for the energy to flow again. My wife could help so already several times desperate singles to find a partner.
The Far Eastern teachings hold many treasures for Europeans. What inspires you at the moment? I only say BER opening. What forecast do you have? I always immerse myself in the Asian world. Explore new territory all the time. So quickly I do not get bored. As you know, numbers play a big role in Chinese culture. Also the moon phases are significant. So one should not do business at moon change if possible. As for the opening of the permanent construction site of BER airport, I predict spring 2018. My calculations envisage two dates: the 17. March 2018, or better still the 16. April 2018 Central European Time. Why? On 17. March 2018 could be done only at ca. 22 o'clock begin to celebrate, that is unlikely, because already very late. Better would be the 16. April 2018, because the celebrations could start already in the morning (source: M. Kubny Chinese lunar calendar). We can bet!
We come back to this. Thank you for the interview. All the best for you!
Interview: Dagmar Mobius
Photos: tattoolos, Dagmar Mobius, Jurgen Schatzel
Chinese characters as tattoo: popular and misleading
Chinese characters as tattoos are still among the most popular motifs ever. The supposed letters are rather symbols. Can have multiple meanings. Sometimes details or the combination of characters decide about the respective interpretation of the motifs and tattoos. Interestingly, it is irrelevant whether Chinese characters or Japanese characters are sought as templates: Although the languages have nothing to do with each other and of course require translation, this does not apply to the characters themselves. Both languages use the same characters. Z.B. the word "love" is represented in both languages with the same symbol, but of course completely differently pronounced.
Variants of tattoos: Individual characters are popular, as are entire novels, which some people have engraved on their skin. Reading is done from top to bottom. From right to left. What the tattoos mean is clarified more by a professional translation than by looking at templates, which often contain errors. Tattoos can be one-color (usually black) or two-color, with gradients of black and red being very popular. As already mentioned in the interview, the font is also important. It decides whether proportions are really correct – again, only a handwriting expert can recognize this – and whether a geometric, rectilinear form or curved shapes are created. Excursion "Chinese tattoos": A Chinese tattoo is something completely different again. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Chinese characters. In China, particularly popular motifs are various animals, dragons, flowers and plants. These ornamental motifs are real export hits. Now widespread all over the world outside China.
Do you have questions about tattoo removal? Contact us – we will be happy to advise you.