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不屈 is the short form of a longer Chinese word and also a word used in Korean and Japanese to express the idea of being indomitable. It literally means “will not bend,” “will not crouch,” “will not yield,” “will not flinch,” or “will not submit.”
Note: Some will translate this as “indomitable spirit”; however, technically, there is no character to suggest the idea of “spirit” in this word.
不屈不撓 means “Indomitable” or “Unyielding.”
不屈不撓 is a long word by Chinese standards. At least, it is often translated as a single word into English. It's actually a proverb in Chinese.
If you want to break it down, you can see that the first and third characters are the same. Both mean “not” (they work as a suffix to make a negative or opposite meaning to whatever character follows).
The second character means “bendable.”
The last means “scratched” or “bothered.”
So this really means “Won't be bent, can't be bothered.” I have also seen it written as “Will not crouch, will not submit.” This comes from the fact that the second character can mean “to crouch” and the last can mean “to submit” (as in “to give in” such as “submitting to the rule of someone else”). This may explain better why these four characters mean “indomitable.”
Some will translate this as “indomitable spirit”; however, technically, there is no character to suggest the idea of “spirit” in this word.
Other translations include indefatigability, indomitableness, or unremitting tenacity.
The first two characters can be stand-alone words in Chinese.
In Japanese, this is considered two words (with very similar meanings). It's more common to see the word order flipped to 不撓不屈 in Japanese.
The same characters are used in old Korean Hanja. Just like in Japanese, the words are swapped to 不撓不屈 creating a word pronounced “불요불굴” in Korean.
Persistence to overcome all challenges
百折不撓 is a Chinese proverb that means “Be undaunted in the face of repeated setbacks.”
More directly translated, it reads, “[Overcome] a hundred setbacks, without flinching.” 百折不撓 is of Chinese origin but is commonly used in Japanese and somewhat in Korean (same characters, different pronunciation).
This proverb comes from a long, and occasionally tragic story of a man that lived sometime around 25-220 AD. His name was Qiao Xuan, and he never stooped to flattery but remained an upright person at all times. He fought to expose the corruption of higher-level government officials at great risk to himself.
Then when he was at a higher level in the Imperial Court, bandits were regularly capturing hostages and demanding ransoms. But when his own son was captured, he was so focused on his duty to the Emperor and the common good that he sent a platoon of soldiers to raid the bandits' hideout, and stop them once and for all even at the risk of his own son's life. While all of the bandits were arrested in the raid, they killed Qiao Xuan's son at first sight of the raiding soldiers.
Near the end of his career, a new Emperor came to power, and Qiao Xuan reported to him that one of his ministers was bullying the people and extorting money from them. The new Emperor refused to listen to Qiao Xuan and even promoted the corrupt Minister. Qiao Xuan was so disgusted that in protest, he resigned from his post as minister (something almost never done) and left for his home village.
His tombstone reads “Bai Zhe Bu Nao” which is now a proverb used in Chinese culture to describe a person of strong will who puts up stubborn resistance against great odds.
My Chinese-English dictionary defines these 4 characters as “keep on fighting despite all setbacks,” “be undaunted by repeated setbacks,” and “be indomitable.”
Our translator says it can mean “never give up” in modern Chinese.
Although the first two characters are translated correctly as “repeated setbacks,” the literal meaning is “100 setbacks” or “a rope that breaks 100 times.” The last two characters can mean “do not yield” or “do not give up.”
Most Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people will not take this absolutely literal meaning but will instead understand it as the title suggests above. If you want a single big word definition, it would be indefatigability, indomitableness, persistence, or unyielding.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Romaji (Romanized Japanese)
|Various forms of Romanized Chinese
|bù qū / bu4 qu1 / bu qu / buqu
|pu ch`ü / puchü / pu chü
|fu kutsu fu tou
fu kutsu fu to
|bù qū bù náo
bu4 qu1 bu4 nao2
bu qu bu nao
|pu ch`ü pu nao
pu chü pu nao
|Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks
|hyaku setsu su tou
hyaku setsu su to
|bǎi zhé bù náo
bai3 zhe2 bu4 nao2
bai zhe bu nao
|pai che pu nao
|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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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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