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Asian Artists Online Art Gallery

Chinese Symbols and Meanings

To view scrolls and framed art featuring Chinese Symbols, visit our Chinese Calligraphy Symbol Paintings Art Gallery. In addition to the Chinese calligraphy symbols and information listed on this Web site, we can also translate names, words and phrases into pictures or Graphic artworks. We can turn words, your name, company name or favorite phrase into a Chinese symbol for use on your Web site, in emails, for letterheads, tattoos or any other use you can think of for Chinese symbols. For anyone interested in learning more about Chinese Symbols and Art, we also offer a list of Bestselling Chinese Symbol Books and other related books.

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Chinese Symbol Examples - Symbol Pictured is Dragon

Chinese Symbol for Dragon

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Fully Customized Digital Chinese Symbol - ($5.99)

Chinese Symbol in a digital format. These Chinese symbols will be rendered as digital files in .JPEG, .GIF and .PNG file formats for use in virtually any media. ALL translations are performed by a CHINESE translator from China to insure their accuracy. For this fully customized version of a Chinese symbol, you will need to email the Webmaster after you order to provide us with the details of your Chinese symbol design. Symbol images are delivered to you via email!

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Chinese Symbol Images and Graphic Artwork Examples

If you would like to have other graphic artwork created that requires the insertion of Chinese words, symbols or phrases, please Contact Asian Artists Online for more information. We can create logos and other images with virtually any word, phrase or symbol you require.

Bestselling Chinese Symbol Books

A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought by Wolfram Eberhard.

Dictionary of Chinese Symbols

Ian Myles Slater on: Revealing Meaning - "A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols" is the work of Wolfram Eberhard (1909-1989) A German-born Sinologist and sociologist, and a political refugee from Hitler, he spent eleven years in Turkey introducing Sinology to that country at Ankara University, and then most of the rest of his career (1948-1976) at the University of California at Berkeley, in the then-new Department of Sociology. He published in German, English, and Turkish, on both standard Sinological subjects and Chinese and comparative folklore, and the local cultures of China and adjacent areas. His "Dictionary of Chinese Symbols" is based on a lifetime of study, and an unusual diversity of experience.

The bulk of Eberhard's publications (thirty-five books, 195 articles, 300-some book reviews) are usually fairly technical, or, if popular, rapidly becoming obsolete. (His "History of China," first published in German in 1948, was last revised in 1977, just before an explosion of archeological and other work.) However, his "Folktales of China" (1965), part of University of Chicago Press series aimed at both college students and the general public, should be accessible to most readers, if a copy is available. The present volume was also apparently aimed at a wider public, although it was well-received by Sinologists.

The 1983 German edition of "Lexicon chinesischer Symbole," translated by G. L. Campbell, as "A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols," was his last major work. It is the condensed -- in some ways perhaps too condensed -- product of a lifetime of study. It is organized not around the meaning of Chinese art motifs as such, but around the symbolic associations of the written characters of classical China, with their fully pictorial counterparts as supporting data; and it includes primarily verbal symbolisms as well. It is primarily historical, and, inevitably, very selective: "no more than an introduction to the subject," according to the author. A topic is always given its Chinese character, or set of characters; and many are illustrated from traditional art, mostly reproduced rather well. Eberhard uses the traditional, or "full" forms of Chinese characters, rather than the recent simplified forms, pointing out that the symbolic associations may depends on the perceived imagery of at least part of the character, as well as on, or in addition to, its phonetic reading.

Eberhard does use survival of ideas into modern times -- by which he apparently means the first part of the twentieth century -- as an important criterion of selection. There is, however, no attempt made to include specifically *modern* China, whether the mainland or Taiwan, in any systematic way. The reader who is interested in classic Chinese literature, or traditional art probably will be far better served than those interested in twentieth-century innovations or drastic adaptations. A history encompassing millennia is given priority over recent decades. But, if modernity as such is given short shrift, Eberhard often notes the geographic and cultural distribution of a concept or image within China, instead of offering an impression of "all Chinese ... at all times." To those without access to the primary and secondary sources (the latter of which include some of Eberhard's own publications), this feature is very important all by itself.

First published at a time when the mainland government was pressing the claims of its official "Pinyin" system for Romanizing Chinese as the international standard, the transliteration used in the book, at least in its English-language version, represents a compromise. It uses the character set of Pinyin, instead of the old Wade-Giles system (or a German equivalent), but breaks up the long polysyllabic forms of the official version with hyphens, in the Wade-Giles manner. This is, I am sure, annoying to those who know and like the Pinyin system, but it is a practical compromise. The uninitiated, faced by, say, "huijiaotu" (Muslims) are, I would think, at least as likely to try pronouncing it as huiji-aot-u as they are to read it as hui-jiao-tu, the form given here.

Eberhard was very much aware of theoretical issues, and raises some in his brief Introduction, which deals with written Chinese as itself a symbolic system. He mentions, with regret, that he was not able to include the symbolic systems of Chinese craftsmen, and explains that Buddhist and Taoist symbols are included only if they are meaningful to ordinary Chinese. He adds that the full range of Chinese symbolism, and its functions, remains to be explored and evaluated, but he does not turn a dictionary into a vehicle for promulgating his own theories.

The main purpose of the "Dictionary" is to present useful information in a condensed fashion. It succeeds at this quite brilliantly. While not as all-encompassing as Williams' antiquated (and not always reliable) "Outlines of Chinese Symbolism," and lacking the sheer beauty of Fang Jing Pei's "Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art: Figures, Bugs, Beasts, and Flowers," it is dense with relevant, and authentic, information. The simple indication of a cross-reference, an arrow pointing at the head-word of another article, is usually less distracting than common alternatives, such as the use of italics, small capitals, or boldface, although in a few articles their abundance becomes an obstacle to reading.

Informative - It seems to be general consensus that this is one of the only books of its kind. While its content is concise and informative, it does seem to be dated. I had to double-check that it had indeed been originally published in 1983 because stylistically speaking (in addition to the weird romanization issues and lack of "modern" symbology that others have mentioned), it seems to stuck in the early 20th century and perhaps a little tainted with the Edward Said notion of "Orientalism." I can't help but get the feeling that it is from an "outsider looking in" perspective, meaning I wish it was written in a more intimate and warmer way, and that if it were, perhaps the text would become more alive.

I also found the method of cross-referencing information (by peppering the text with a lot of arrows -->) fairly distracting, and that the descriptions of individual symbols did not really "flow," but rather were written in a piecemeal fashion.

Again, I am grateful that this information has been compiled and assembled in this text; however, I wish that it could be updated.

Fun with Chinese Symbols Stencils by Marty Noble

Fun with Chinese Symbols Stencils

Chinese Stencils - This is a small book of cardboard stencils. They are great. I have been able to reuse them and put stencils on many different things including wood, paper and fabric. If you are look for a few inexpensive Chinese symbols this is the book for you.

Chinese Folk Designs: A Collection of 300 Cut-Paper Designs Used for Embroidery Together With 160 Chinese Art Symbols and Their Meanings by Francess Hawley Seyssel, W. M. Hawley and Willis Meeker Hawley.

Chinese Folk Designs

Good Design Source - I have used this book numerous times for the somewhat non-traditional purpose of tattoo designs. My complaint is minor, and it has to do with how the book is formatted. The designs are white on a red or black background. This makes it a little difficult to photocopy for use; especially on the red pages.

Beautiful designs, nicely explained - I ran across this title in a small shop in San Francisco's Chinatown. I was running short on cash, and was kicking myself within 24 hours for not purchasing this book. Hawley provides 300 cut paper designs used in traditional Chinese embroidery. Each design is in white on a solid color background (red, blue, black, brown, or purple). The designs are clear and easy to see and enjoy. A brief introduction gives a little background (I would have liked more) on this folk art, and an index at the beginning allows users to look up symbols of specific interest. Do that, but browse the rest of the book as well!

An eight-page supplement at the end illustrates 160 symbols (including ideograms, trigrams from the I Ching, and pictorial symbols) used in traditional decorative arts along with their meanings. Fascinating!

For those interested in learning more about Chinese art, or for those who just enjoy beautiful designs, this is an excellent choice.

Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art: Figures, Bugs, Beasts, and Flowers by Fang Jing Pei, Jing Pei Fang.

Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art

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