Chinese Knotting: The Sauvastika Knot (卍字結, 総角結び, 날개 매듭)

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A simple but very important knot. It is our best contender for the official "true lovers knot", if there in fact can be said to be such a thing. The agemaki, strangely (perhaps only to me?), is a functional part of samurai armour. In Asian knotting tradition, there are not many direct variations, although there are many knots similar in configuration (4 eared knots around a square-ish centre). In Western knotting tradition, however, there are many knots that look related.


Due to cultural conversion issues, there are some problems with the Chinese translation of the sauvastika/buddha knot. There is no translation for the Japanese agemaki knot, although the transliteration/romanization could work. The Korean nalgae is the first of at least 2 Korean wing knots so that doesn't help with disambiguation much more than the uncounted knots that have been called "the true lover's knot". I have, however, found a unique solution if tossing one more name into the mix isn't just too much. ABoK: #754 (also #745 and #742) is the emerald knot, a multistrand knot kin to the Matthew Walker knot but with the overhand knots that comprise it facing outwards, like the sauvastika during construction. So: two strand slipped emerald knot. I think it has a ring to it...

Chen 1: Sauvastika Knot (卍字結,卍字 结) [ㄨㄢˋ ㄗˋ ㄐㄧㄝˊ, wàn zì jié]
Ruri-Ishikawa: 総角結び (あげまき むすび, アゲマキ ムスビ) [agemaki musubi]
Ashley: #2301, #2466 True Lover's Knot, #2419 two cord lanyard knot, sailor's cross, southern cross
Chen 3 English: Buddha Knot
Korean: Wing Knot (날개 매듭) [nalgae maedeup]
French: aile noeud (wing knot)

Translation Notes

For some, the English translation of the 卍字結, sauvastika knot, is problematic. The sauvastika is an ancient symbol extensively used by both Hinduism and Buddhism among many other religions and traditions. It is a symbol of the sun, of blessing, of positive energy. The Chinese "卍" character as applied to the knot name, I suspect, has less to do with it's religious or spiritual symbolism and more to do with its shape as a pictograph. "字" translates as "word" reinforcing the idea that the name is shape based rather than symbolic.

While Hinduism uses both the right-facing (swastika) and left-facing (sauvastika) versions of the symbol for balance, Buddhism uses the sauvastika almost exclusively. That said, it is difficult to ignore the massive stigma modern westerners apply to the swastika. Indeed public displays of the swastika are illegal in Germany except for scholarly purposes. Generally speaking the distinction between the swastika and the sauvastika is lost on most western observers.

So it is that the translation of Chinese Knotting 3 names the knot the "Buddha Knot". Personally, I don't think that's really much better. You offend fewer casual observers, but the shape association is gone and you have a whole new set of cultural implications to go with "Buddha". What's the English speaking scholar of Asian knots to do? Can we coin an English name/translation that keeps the shape description qualities but avoids the pitfalls? Does "sauvastika" give you enough distance?

The Japanese "総角結び" has no translation, just the transliteration/romanization of "agemaki" knot. Agemaki, "総角", is defined as (1) old-fashioned boys' hairstyle (2) Meiji period women's hairstyle. I think we're in "top knot" territory.

The Korean "날개 매듭" translates as "wing knot". Since a number of what I might deem to be compound knots are are considered basic Korean knots, including the dragonfly knot, the wing knot is traditionally the wing portion of the dragonfly knot. Fair enough, no controversy there. Following the Korean, as usual, the French name is then "aile noeud."

Similar Knots

How To

While there may not be many direct variations of sauvastika, there are many different methods to tie the basic knot.

General Tips

Sauvastika: Interlocking simple knot method

The reason that I put the sauvastika knot into the simple/overhand knot family is due to the fact that it is 2 interlocking simple knots. This method shows that most clearly, and if one of the other methods get away from you, this is the basic configuration and knowing this method can save the situation for you.

Sauvastika: Korean tying method

Taking simple visual clues from what you've already tied, the Korean method requires less memory or analysis to execute.


Creation Date: Sun Sep 26 11:33:43 PDT 2010
Last Modified: Wednesday, 06-Oct-2010 02:56:53 UTC
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