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11. The Red String
These two characters contain the ideas of fate, destiny, fortune, and luck in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
運命 is often defined as “a person's fate” or “personal fate” in various dictionaries.
These two characters can be reversed (written in either order) and yield roughly the same meaning.
This particular character order is more common in old Korean and less common in modern Chinese.
These two characters contain the ideas of fate, destiny, fortune, and luck.
You can also say that it means “what life throws at you” or “your lot in life” because the first character contains the idea of life or living.
This version is really only used in Chinese. There's another version with just the characters reversed that is more universal. In fact, skip this one. The opposite character order is better.
緣份 specifically represents the fate or destiny that brings two people together.
This is like the chance meeting of two people that leads sometime later to marriage.
This could also be the chance meeting of two business people who become partners and build a huge and successful company.
This idea is often associated with a fateful meeting leading to good fortune.
Some will define this word as “Destiny brings you two together” or “Meant to be.”
Note: The second character can also be written without the left radical, as shown to the right. If you have a preference, please let use know in the special instructions for your project. There is no difference in meaning or pronunciation, just two (alternate) ways to write the same character.
The Buddhist idea of Fate
因緣 is the Buddhist concept of a chance meeting or an opportunity that presents itself by fate.
Sometimes this is used to describe a cosmic chain of events or cause and effect.
It also is used to describe predestined relationships between people - and sometimes married couples (although if you want one about marriage, try this: Fate / Destiny of Lovers.
因緣 can also be translated as origin, karma, destiny, affinity, connection, and relation. This all depends on context - seen alone on a wall scroll, this will be read with a “fate/chance” meaning by a Chinese person or a Korean person who can read Hanja.
The more complex definition of this word would be, “Direct causes and indirect conditions, which underlie the actions of all things.”
This concept is known as nidana in the original Sanskrit. Also sometimes presented as hetupratyaya (or “hetu and prataya”), which I believe is Pali.
Note: Japanese will tend to use this version of the second Kanji:
If you order this from the Japanese master calligrapher, expect that you’ll get this version. However, this word often carries a negative connotation in Japanese (bad things happen), as it is used that way in a certain Japanese idiom. Therefore, this may not be the best choice if Japanese is your target language.
命 is often translated as “destiny.”
Sometimes this character is simply translated as “life” but more in terms of one's lot in life. In a certain context, this can mean command or decree (generally from a king or emperor). Of course, such a decree is part of fate and leads you to fulfill your destiny.
In Chinese, this word leans toward the fate or destiny definition.
In Korean, it is usually read simply as “life.”
In Japanese, it can mean all definitions shown above, depending on context.
See Also: Good Fortune
姻緣 means “Destiny that brings lovers together.” It can also be translated technically as “Predestined matrimonial affinity” (wow, talk about taking the romance out of this word - that was from the Oxford C-E dictionary).
This speaks to the fate (or karma) that brings a husband and wife together. I would translate this as “Together by fate” or “Joined by destiny” but in the context of marriage. You could use this for non-married lovers, but the first character has a suggestion that this refers to those that are married.
我命由我不由天 is often translated as “The one that shapes my destiny will always be myself rather than the God” or “Rather than Heaven, I am the master of my fate.”
Breaking down the words directly:
我命 = My fate/destiny
由我 = depends (on) me
不 = not
由天 dependant (on) Heaven.
See Also: Choose Your Own Destiny
天意 is a way to express destiny in a slightly religious way.
天意 means “Heaven's Wish” or “Heaven's Desire,” with the idea of fate and destiny being derived as well. It suggests that your destiny comes from God / Heaven and that your path has already been chosen by a higher power.
My Japanese dictionary defines this word as “divine will” or “providence,” but it also holds the meaning of “the will of the emperor.” Therefore, I don't suggest this phrase if your audience is Japanese - it feels strange in Japanese anyway.
姻緣紅線 is the legendary red string of destiny that binds all soul mates or lovers together.
In ancient Chinese culture, a mythological matchmaker named 月老 (Yuè Lǎo) was the controller of the fate that led lovers to meet. He did this by tying a celestial red string to the ankle of each person. Sometime during their life, they will meet and marry as fate dictates.
While the origin of the red string comes from China, it has spread to other parts of Asia (such as Japan, where it's known as 赤い糸).
有緣千里來相會 means that fate or destiny has caused us to meet from a thousand miles away.
The 有緣 part suggests something that is connected as if by a thread due to fate, destiny, or karma.
This romantic phrase is seen in Chinese greeting cards. It relays the idea that your love was meant to be and that you were destined to meet (regardless of what distance or obstacles might have made such a meeting unlikely).
See Also: Red Thread
Thread of Lover's Destiny / Fate
This literally translates as “the red string” or “the red thread” in Japanese, but the real meaning is much deeper...
In Japanese culture, it's believed that fate, destiny, or karma joins lovers by an unseen string, tied around one little finger of each. 赤い糸 is how soul mates find and are drawn to each other.
The Japanese concept of the red thread of fate, by most estimations, comes from Chinese folklore, where it's known as 姻緣紅線. The only difference is that in China, the celestial red thread is tied around the ankles of the lovers (versus what is usually represented as the pinky finger in Japan).
The invisible force that brings people together forever
緣 represents the fate that brings and bonds people together.
緣 is a complicated single character. It can mean a lot of different things depending on how you read it.
In Japanese, it can mean fate, destiny, a mysterious force that binds two people together, a relationship between two people, bond, link, connection, family ties, affinity, opportunity, or chance (to meet someone and start a relationship). It can also mean “someone to rely on,” relative, reminder, memento, or the female given name, Yori.
It's the same in Chinese, where it's defined as cause, reason, karma, fate, or predestined affinity.
In the Buddhist context, it's Pratyaya. This is the concept of indirect conditions, as opposed to direct causes. It's when something happens (meeting someone) by circumstance or a contributing environment. Instead of a direct cause or act, it is a conditioning cause without direct input or action by the involved people.
Occasionally, this character is used in a facetious way to say hem, seam, or edge of clothing. In this case, it's the seam that brings or holds the clothing together.
Note: Japanese will tend to use the variant of this Kanji shown to the right. If you want this version (and are ordering this from the Japanese master calligrapher), click on the Kanji at the right instead of the button above.
The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji (Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|un mei / unmei||yùn mìng / yun4 ming4 / yun ming / yunming||yün ming / yünming|
|mìng yùn / ming4 yun4 / ming yun / mingyun||ming yün / mingyün|
|緣份 / 緣分|
缘份 / 缘分
|yuán fèn / yuan2 fen4 / yuan fen / yuanfen||yüan fen / yüanfen|
因缘 / 因縁
|in nen / innen||yīn yuán / yin1 yuan2 / yin yuan / yinyuan||yin yüan / yinyüan|
|命||inochi / mei||mìng / ming4 / ming|
|The Karma/Fate/Destiny that Brings Lovers Together||姻緣|
|yīn yuán / yin1 yuan2 / yin yuan / yinyuan||yin yüan / yinyüan|
|I am the Master of My Destiny||我命由我不由天||wǒ mìng yóu wǒ bù yóu tiān|
wo3 ming4 you2 wo3 bu4 you2 tian1
wo ming you wo bu you tian
|wo ming yu wo pu yu t`ien
wo ming yu wo pu yu tien
|Choose Your Own Destiny||選擇自己的命運|
|xuǎn zé zì jǐ de mìng yùn|
xuan3 ze2 zi4 ji3 de ming4 yun4
xuan ze zi ji de ming yun
|hsüan tse tzu chi te ming yün|
|Destiny Determined by Heaven||天意||teni||tiān yì / tian1 yi4 / tian yi / tianyi||t`ien i / tieni / tien i|
|The Red Thread of Fate||姻緣紅線|
|yīn yuán hóng xiàn|
yin1 yuan2 hong2 xian4
yin yuan hong xian
|yin yüan hung hsien
|Brought Together from 1000 Miles Away by Fate||有緣千里來相會|
|yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì|
you3 yuan2 qian1 li3 lai2 xiang1 hui4
you yuan qian li lai xiang hui
|yu yüan ch`ien li lai hsiang hui
yu yüan chien li lai hsiang hui
|The Red String||赤い糸||akai ito / akaiito|
|The Mysterious Bond Between People||緣 / 縁|
|en||yuán / yuan2 / yuan||yüan|
Love by Fate
|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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When the calligrapher finishes creating your artwork, it is taken to my art mounting workshop in Beijing where a wall scroll is made by hand from a combination of silk, rice paper, and wood.
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We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.
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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