The East Care Logo

My husband and I are collectors of ancient Chinese coins and amulets. We have chosen the above coin as the logo for East Care Acupuncture Clinic because of the stylistic beauty and meaning of the coin’s calligraph

This coin was produced only in 579 AD during the Northern Zhou (pronounced “Joe”) Dynasty.

The four characters on the coin are read from top to bottom and then from right to left. They form the phrase yung tung wan gwo which roughly translates as “useful everywhere under heaven”. We like this idea because Chinese Medicine has proven useful to people everywhere for restoring and maintaining health.

The style of the calligraphy harkens back to the more ancient Shang and Zhou dynasties of the second and first millennia BC. Part of the beauty of the calligraphy derives from the smooth flowing lines rather than the more angular lines commonly found on coins and official documents. See the comparisons below.

Understanding Chinese Characters and Calligraphy

Chinese characters form a writing system very different from an alphabet of sounds such as we use in the west. Each Chinese character represents an individual word that has to be memorized. Characters are often derived from pictures of the objects or from the ideas they represent. Sometimes a character will just be a stylized picture as in yung or wan below. Sometimes a Chinese character will have several parts. One or more parts may help convey the meaning of the word. Another part may help with pronunciation by having a similer sound to the character.

This character is “guo” which means country, kingdom or state. The design depicts the characteristics of a state. The outer circle represents the border or unity of the state’s territory . There is a diagonal slightly curved line the runs from the upper from the upper left to the lower right within the circle. It has a two parallel lines running through it at the top and a hook at the bottom. This is a picture of a spear and represents tann army. The little “square” just left of center is a “mouth” and signifies a common language. The single straight line just below the mouth signifies land or territory . While the characteristics of the state or nation can change over time, the basics have endured for millennia: a unified land where people share a common army and common language.

For comparison the common way of writing the guo is:

This character is wan and literally means “Ten Thousand”, the number which signifies “lots and lots”. In England we may say, “Long Live the King!” But in China we yell, “Ten Thousand Years!” meaning may your reign last forever! … a bit of flattery. Chinese has many homonyms. The word for tarantula and the word for 10,000 are both proniunced wan. So the character for 10,000 is actually a picture of a tarantula. This is what is know as a “sound loan”. Wan is a pretty simple sound loan character. But most Chinese characters are often like little puzzles. They are composed of parts which suggest just meaning as with guo above and parts which just suggest sound as with wan or diffferent parts, some which suggest sound and others meaning as with tong below.

For comparison the common way of writing the wan is:

The bottom character of the coin, tong, conveys the idea of “universal” or “throughout”. It is made of of two parts. The left side is a stylized picture of a foot which helps with the meaning of wide ranging. Don’t try too hard to see a picture of an actual foot since the character has gone through a lot of change from its pictographic form. The right side is actually a picture of a hanging bell. The word for bell is pronounced zhong which helps with sound.

For comparison the common way of writing the tong is:

The top character, yung, means being universal. Originally a picture of flowing water, the character is intended to convey the notion of endlessly flowing water. The flowing lines also convey easy movement associated with acceptability.

For comparison the common way of writing the yong is:

More Interesting Examples of Chinese Calligraphy

This is a poem by the Song Emperor Hui Zong who reigned from 1101 to 1125. To see a larger and clearer image this poem and to learn more about the emperor and his calligraphy style, click on the poem above.