I'm having an argument with my friends on the translation of the word " 文武館". From my understanding, the meaning of this word is to describe a multipurpose building where literary and martial arts activities take place. Still, they don't have to work together, and they can work separately. It simply denotes a gathering place. However, my friend believes that 館 can be understood as an association where people have particular purposes to meet and work together, so we had a heat exchange. May I know which is the correct meaning of this word anyway?

Many thanks

  • 館 indeed denotes a building but some associations may use it in their names.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jul 8 at 21:52
  • 文武 is a Chinese concept of governance. 文 isn't necessarily "literary", but administrative work, handled by those who mastered Chinese classics and writing system. 武 isn't nessarily "martial arts", but military work, handled by master fighters and tacticians. Commented Jul 9 at 5:41

2 Answers 2


文武館 is not a general term for buildings with specific purposes, such as 図書館 ("library") or 博物館 ("museum"). It is a proper noun that can be used typically for the names of judo/karate dojos or old schools. The character 館 was often used as a suffix to create proper nouns.

Therefore, 文武館 is usually best translated simply as "Bunbukan". Similar names that end with 館 include 講道館 (judo association) and 小学館 (publisher), which are also usually translated simply as "Kodokan" and "Shogakukan", respectively.

Just as Rio de Janeiro means "river of January" and Beijing means "north capital", many proper nouns have etymological or literal meanings. In that sense, Bunbukan could be interpreted literally as "hall of literature and martial arts". This likely represents the spirit that a good person must have both knowledge and strength (known as 文武両道). That said, from what I've found, most modern buildings named 文武館 are martial arts dojos, and they don't seem to be particularly suitable for reading books.

  • Can't 文 also signify the arts? Just as in the word name of "martial arts" itself. I get the sense that 文 can signify culture such as in 文明, 文化, 文部省, and other such words. Is this not right?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 9 at 2:51
  • 1
    @A.Ellett The kanji closest to "(performable) arts in general" would be 芸 as in 武芸. 文武 is probably taken from 文武両道, where 文 signifies knowledge gained through books.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 9 at 2:53
  • 1
    Oh, I wasn't specifically thinking of arts as in performing arts. I was thinking of the older usage of the word arts, such as in the "liberal arts" where there is a sense of broadly gained knowledge.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 9 at 2:56
  • 1
    @A.Ellett The kanji 文 can indeed refer to various concepts such as cultures and sentences, but in the compound 文武, it always means "academics" as an opposing concept of 武.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 9 at 3:04
  • 4
    @throwawayta While the kanji 館 by itself can broadly refer to various types of large building/hall (旅館, 武道館, 図書館, 博物館, ...), 会館 specifically refers to ceremonial/meeting halls suitable for formal parties, conventions or such (see Tokyo Kaikan for example). So Rokumeikan is a type of 会館, and Shogakukan is definitely not. As for Bunbukan, if it refers to a certain karate dojo, it's not a 会館.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 9 at 7:33

As Naruto noted, the word “文武館” (Bunbu-kan) is a compound word combining “文武” (bunbu), which means both literary and martial arts, and “館” (kan), which means building, hall, or organization. “文武館” has recently been used as a proper noun for many martial arts organizations. However, the “文” (bun) taught in such organizations generally refers to etiquette and manners based on Confucian principles, not modern literature or sciences.

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  • In the past, studying Confucianism was considered a part of a well-rounded education ("文") in Japan.
    – ysaku
    Commented Jul 9 at 22:49
  • I think your comment is worth being editted into your answer / そのコメントは返答に書き足すに相応しい情報だと思います Commented Jul 9 at 23:09

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