A few weeks ago, I saw Nicki Minaj on Saturday Night Live and was intrigued by the tattoo on her forearm. This Nicki Minaj tattoo, 上帝興你常在, is a Chinese saying meaning “God is Always With You”.
On the right is an original design I subsequently created using my unique style and a style that I really like. I also created a variety of other variations that may be seen at God is Always With You.
It occurs to me that people might think it odd for a Japanese calligrapher to do Chinese calligraphy – in fact, it is completely natural as all professional Japanese calligraphers train extensively in traditional Chinese calligraphy. In fact for most of our professional life that is all we do!
Written Chinese and written Japanese differ quite a bit. The greatest difference being that Chinese uses only “Chinese Characters”. Japan adopted these characters over a period of centuries to create what in Japanese are known as kanji. Modern Chinese uses about four thousand of the eighty thousand or so total Chinese characters. Modern Japanese uses around three thousand kanji. Japanese also has kana which are like alphabets (syllabaries really) that allow for writing Japanese unique grammatical elements, verb tenses, and transcription of non-Japanese words.
The professional Japanese calligrapher needs to know classical Chinese writing and classical Japanese writing and so requires a significantly larger repertoire. So it is indeed not unusual for the Japanese Calligrapher to be a master of Chinese Calligraphy.
I tip my hat to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring tattoo design.