The four characters in the traditional Chinese writing form at the top stand for "Xiamen University" and at the bottom are the words of "Xiamen University" in Latin; the three stars inside the shield represent the "three powers" in the theory of traditional Chinese philosophy, namely the so-called three major elements in nature: spirit, universe and human beings; the city wall and gate in the center  of  the  shield  symbolize  that  XMU  attaches  great importance to attracting top talents from all over the world and implementing open education; the four Chinese characters in the ribbon mean "striving for perfection", which is the original motto of XMU.

The motto of Xiamen University is: Pursue Excellence; Strive for Perfection.

The phrase Pursue Excellence can be traced back to the Book of Changes in which there is a sentence that goes As the movement of the heavens is forever dynamic, so the superior man pursues excellence all his life.

The phrase Strive for Perfection is taken from the chapter of Great Learning in the Book of Rites in which great learning is defined as the ability to explain and exemplify virtues, to show love and concern for people, and to strive for perfection.