Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Chinese, or English, Sir?

April 12th, 2009 by

As many of you out there well know, it is something of a trend to have a motto, or personal message tattooed in Chinese characters. It may, however, surprise you to know that in China there is also a new rage in tattooing that mirrors this. Having the message tattooed in English characters.

While the art of tattooing has been around in China for almost a thousand years, with the first recorded tattoo being done on the back of famous general Yue Fei, as a rule tattooing has been traditionally looked down on in China. Especially since the Communist takeover. Soldiers and police officers must be ink-free. Sports stars rarely have them, and employers discriminate against those with tattoos, thinking tattoos are more for criminals. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But it seems that no matter what culture you grow up in the art of tattoo just won’t stay down. In recent years, even in the oppressive atmosphere of a controlling government, China has seen a boom in the tattooing industry. Scores of parlors have opened in Beijing, mostly in back alleys and privet residences.

While this leaves the art totally unregulated, so far the Chinese government is doing little to stem the tide. In effect giving a “blind eye” acceptance to the newly burgeoning tattoo scene. Let’s hope that when they do take an interest it’s the right one. Not another Tiananmen Square fiasco.

As it stands now tattooists in china can hardly keep up with the demand with people under thirty wanting Western designs, and those over thirty wanting more traditional Eastern motifs. Appointments have to be made months in advance. All in all it is rather encouraging to know that the art is gaining ground there. All that is needed now is regulation and training to ensure both the quality of the art, and the safety of the clients.

Still, considering the hilarious mistakes that have been made in the past by Western artists misinterpreting the meaning of Chinese symbols, I have to wonder. How long will it be until we will have to let some poor sap know that what he thinks says “Good Luck” on his bicep actually says, “Gay Luke”?

All kidding aside. It’s good to see that the phenomenon of tattoo gaining in acceptance as a unique art form is truly world wide.

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