Monday, February 2, 2009

AN + SHIN = Peace of Mind

Several years ago Mrs Elliott and I went in for some tattoos. I asked the tattooist to recommend a kanji character which means "tranquility," and he flipped through his book and found the symbol "AN" (pictured to the left). I agreed and he tattooed me with that symbol on my left shoulder. 

Later, I was talking to the woman who owns a Japanese food market and told her about this. She laughed, "That doesn't mean `tranquil,' it means `cheap!' " To create "tranquility," or "peaceful mind," one needs to add the ideogram for "heart": SHIN / Kokoro (pictured). She calligraphed the two together to illustrate how it works.
Together, the two ideograms create Anshin, (relief, peace of mind), a bit closer to what I hoped to have marked on my back. 

But for a few years I left the incomplete phrase on my back, not quite getting around to changing it, but always kinda aware that I was wearing the word for "cheap," or "easy" on my back. 

A few weeks ago I became more aware of this dangling thread when I got a massage from Yasuko Narita, LMT, at Balanced Life Massage in Bend. Yasuko is from Japan, and I knew she was looking at the AN and thinking that I was yet another white guy with a senseless kanji tattoo. I asked her about it, and she confirmed what the market owner had told me, that KOKORO was needed to complete the concept. 

So with a scaled printout of what I needed in hand, I popped into Oxygen Tattoo on Bond Street. They quoted $100 for the job, which was a little more than I wanted to pay. I rode my bike over to Black Rabbit on Greenwood, but they were going to be closed until noon and I didn't feel like waiting. Having recalled seeing a new tattoo place on Galveston near the flaming chicken, I rode out and found Tattoos By Mum (no website found, she was formerly on Wall Street, I think). 

She said she could do the tat for $80 and got the job. 

A few minutes later, I had peace of mind.


  1. Oh why didn't you ask some NON Japanese? Look dude, the kanji characters are developed from the Chinese characters. And in many instances they didn't develop but just borrowed, directly.

    The first word you have there is pronounced AN and it DOES mean PEACE! It does NOT mean cheap in any sense whatsoever. It's so easy to tell, 97% of Chinese characters are logical aggregate - meaning they combine different elements to best express it.

    The first word you have there: there is a ROOF, below it stands a Woman. And these two elements combined means peace. In the ancient day it would have meant the quality of life is being taken care of (there is a roof over the head) and therefore nothing to worry.

    How could a character like that means CHEAP? Goodness! You should shoot the two Japanese, for they obviously do NOT understand the origin of Kanji and what each element means!

    Ugh, there are just too many stupid people around!

  2. Hi RMH: Well, all I can say is that 100% of the Japanese people I polled affirmed that there was a tinge of cheap in addition to the peaceful or easy (life with a woman under the roof is easy? cheap things are easy to come by?) also, see , which affirms the cheapness aspect.


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