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20 Chinese Symbols and Their Meanings

Welcome to our in-depth exploration of 20 Chinese symbols and their meanings! Throughout history, these characters have played a significant role in Chinese culture, art, and philosophy. As diverse as the patterns on a kaleidoscope, these symbols boast a rich history and distinct significance, making them an excellent source of inspiration and conversation.

This article will delve into Chinese symbols, unraveling their meanings across four intriguing categories: Tattoos, Ancient Symbols, Good Luck & Prosperity, and Nature & Elements. From the classic tattoo favorites of dragons to the lesser-known ancient symbols like the Eight Trigrams, we’ll examine the fascinating stories behind these characters. So, whether you’re searching for the perfect tattoo design or simply aiming to expand your knowledge of Chinese symbols, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s embark on this captivating journey together!

Feature 20 Chinese Symbols and Meanings in Tattoo and Ancient Art

5 Chinese Symbols for Tattoo and Their Meanings

龙 (lóng) - Dragon

Chinese symbols - Dragon Tattoo

Dragons have always been a fan-favorite when it comes to Chinese symbols and meanings, especially in the tattoo world. These mythical creatures symbolize power and strength. In Chinese culture, they are considered to be auspicious and are often associated with emperors and nobility. So, if you’re looking for a tattoo that makes you feel like an ancient emperor, a dragon might do the trick!

凤 (fèng) - Phoenix

Chinese symbols - Phoenix Tattoo

Rising from ashes like a goddess, the phoenix is another popular choice for tattoos. This magnificent bird represents rebirth, renewal, and transformation. In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is often paired with the dragon, symbolizing the harmony between yin (female) and yang (male) energies. A phoenix tattoo is perfect for anyone who has overcome adversity or experienced personal growth.

麒麟 (qílín) - Qilin

Chinese symbols - Qilin Tattoo

The Qilin is a mythical creature in Chinese culture, often considered a Chinese version unicorn. It is said to possess the body of a deer, the head of a dragon, and the tail of an ox. The Qilin symbolizes prosperity, success, and good fortune. A Qilin tattoo can represent your aspiration for success and wealth.

关公 (Guān Gōng) - Guan Gong

Chinese symbols - Guan Gong Tattoo
Guan Gong

Also known as Guan Yu, Guan Gong is a historical Chinese military hero who was famous for loyalty, righteousness, and bravery. He is often depicted as a red-faced warrior with a long beard, holding a giant guandao, a type of Chinese pole weapon. A Guan Gong tattoo signifies unwavering honor and courage. It is especially popular among those with a strong sense of justice or respect for martial arts.

山水 (shānshuǐ) - Landscape

Chinese symbols - Shan Shui
Chinese Landscape Painting

This symbol refers to traditional Chinese landscape painting, typically featuring mountains, rivers, and other natural elements. These serene and harmonious scenes embody the Chinese philosophy of harmony between humans and nature. A 山水 (shānshuǐ) tattoo can represent your appreciation for nature’s beauty, your desire to find inner peace, or your commitment to living in harmony with the environment.

5 Ancient Chinese Symbols and Their Meanings

太极 (tàijí) - Tai Chi diagram / Yin Yang

The iconic symbol of Yin and Yang represents the harmony between opposing forces in the universe. It has more than 500 years old history. The black and white swirls depict the interconnectedness of light and darkness, male and female, and other dualities. For personal mental life, it symbolizes a state of balance and harmony.

Chinese symbols - Tai Chi Diagram
Tai Chi Diagram

八卦 (bāguà) - Eight Trigrams

This ancient symbol came from 3 thousand years ago. It consists of eight trigrams arranged in a circle, each representing a fundamental aspect of reality, such as fire, earth, wind, and water. In Chinese philosophy, these trigrams are used to understand the patterns and relationships between natural phenomena. If you are designing a philosophy project, eight trigrams may help to signify the connection between us and the cosmos.

Chinese Symbols - Eight Trigrams
Eight Trigrams

马踏飞燕 (mǎ tà fēi yàn) - Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow

The 马踏飞燕 (mǎ tà fēi yàn) symbol depicts a galloping horse with one hoof treading on a flying swallow. This image dates back to the Han Dynasty and is believed to represent incredible craftsmanship. Used in various forms of art, this symbol inspires many Chinese artisans and shows their determination to perfect artwork.

Chinese symbols - Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow
Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow, from Gansu Provincial Museum

金乌 (jīn wū) - Golden Crow

The 金乌 (jīn wū), or Golden Crow, is a mythical bird in Chinese mythology, representing the sun. As a solar symbol more than 2100 years old, the Golden Crow is associated with warmth, light, and vitality. Ancient Chinese emperors often used the Golden Crow to symbolize their divine connection to the sun and the heavens. The golden crow is also a symbol of a determined and perseverant girl who is the daughter of the sun. It is widely used in Chinese stories and artworks made of gold.

Chinese Symbols - Golden Crow
Golden Crow

莲花 (liánhuā) - Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is a powerful symbol in Chinese culture, representing purity, enlightenment, and spiritual growth. The greatest goddess in Chinese legends, Guan Yin, likes sitting on a giant lotus and floating in the sky. Therefore, people in China often depict a female deity with a giant lotus as her seat. Similarly, some fashion influencers will sit on lotus leaves to take trendy photos.

Chinese symbols - Guan Yin on a Lotus
Guan Yin on a Lotus

5 Chinese Symbols of Good Luck and Prosperity

福 (fú) - Fortune

Looking for a little extra luck in your life? The 福 (fú) symbol has got your back! It is a widely recognized Chinese symbol representing good fortune, happiness, and blessings. Displaying this character in your living space, office, or as an accessory is believed to bring prosperity and positive energy into your life.

Chinese Symbols - Fortune
Chinese Fortune Symbol Decoration in Office

寿 (shòu) - Longevity

Aging gracefully is the name of the game, and 寿 (shòu) is here to help. This symbol of longevity signifies a long, healthy life. It’s the perfect addition to birthday decorations, wishing your loved ones endless happy and healthy years.

Chinese symbols - Longevity
Longevity Symbols on Chinese Birthday Bread

金蟾 (jīn chán) - Golden Toad

Say hello to the 金蟾 (jīn chán), a three-legged mythical creature that’s all about wealth and good fortune. This golden toad, often seen with a coin in its mouth or lounging on a pile of riches, is a fan-favorite prosperity symbol in Chinese culture. Add a golden toad ornament to your digs to symbolize your pursuit of financial success and abundance – who doesn’t love a little extra bling?

Chinese symbols - Golden Toad
Golden Toad Decoration in Chinese Office

招财猫 (zhāo cái māo) - Lucky Cat

The 招财猫 (zhāo cái māo), or Lucky Cat, was born in Japan and got a loyal following in Chinese culture. This adorable feline figurine, with its raised paw, is all about inviting wealth and good fortune into your life. Position a lucky cat near your entrance or cash register and get ready to attract positive energy and financial blessings. Cat lovers, rejoice!

Chinese symbols - Lucky Cat
Giant Lucky Cat in a Chinese Restaurant

"貔貅 (pí xiū) - Pixiu

Looking for a fierce guardian to ward off bad luck and attract wealth? Meet the 貔貅 (pí xiū), a mythical creature from Chinese folklore. Rocking the fierce look of a lion and the body of a winged dragon, the Pixiu has been a symbol of good fortune and protection for ages. Spice up your space with Pixiu statues or artwork, and watch the good vibes roll in while exploring the fascinating realm of Chinese symbols and meanings.

Chinese symbols - Pixiu
Pixiu Decoration in a Chinese Office

5 Chinese Symbols of Nature and Elements

金 (jīn) - Metal

Strike gold with 金 (jīn), the Chinese symbol for metal. In Chinese culture, metal represents strength, determination, and wealth. As you forge ahead in your journey through Chinese symbols and meanings, let the resilience and power of metal guide you on your path.

Chinese symbols - Metal
Metal Symbol

木 (mù) - Wood

Embrace the essence of growth with 木 (mù), the Chinese symbol for wood. Wood symbolizes growth, strength, and renewal in Chinese culture. Like a mighty tree branching out towards the sky, the wood element encourages us to reach higher and keep growing.

Chinese symbols - Wood
Wood Symbol

水 (shuǐ) - Water

Dive into the depths of 水 (shuǐ), the Chinese symbol for water. As a vital element in Chinese culture, water represents flexibility, adaptability, and life. Whether it’s a raging river or a serene pond, water’s transformative power is a central theme in Chinese symbols and meanings.

Chinese symbols - Water
Water Symbol

火 (huǒ) - Fire

Ignite your passion with 火 (huǒ), the Chinese symbol for fire. Fire represents energy, transformation, and purification in Chinese culture. Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we all have a fire inside ourselves, burning brightly and fueling requests for knowledge and power.

Chinese symbols - Fire
Fire Symbol

土 (tǔ) - Earth

Get grounded with 土 (tǔ), the Chinese symbol for earth. Earth represents stability, nurturing, and growth in Chinese culture. Adding the earth element to your life is about finding your roots and connecting with the world around you.

Chinese symbols - Earth
Earth Symbol

Final Words

And there you have it, folks! We’ve journeyed together through the captivating world of Chinese symbols and meanings, uncovering their cultural significance. From popular tattoo symbols to ancient art, symbols of good fortune to natural elements, we’ve scratched the surface of the vast realm of Chinese symbols.

As you continue to explore Chinese culture, remember that these symbols connect us with a heritage spanning thousands of years. We hope this article has inspired you to dive deeper into the world of Chinese symbols and perhaps even incorporate some of them into your artwork.

If you want to learn more about traditional Chinese symbols, welcome to our “Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator,” which includes 12 cute Chinese zodiac signs’ drawings and the destiny bounded with your zodiac! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas about fashion ~ We are always here to exchange brilliant thoughts!

Have a good day

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