Chinese do get tattoos in mainland, but not what you expect

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Gary
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Chinese do get tattoos in mainland, but not what you expect

Post by Gary » Oct 14, 2009 9:49 am

Check out this article:
http://english.sina.com/life/p/2009/0930/274335.html


Reuters Photo

I've been living on and off in Beijing for the past seven years, but never found a tattoo parlor in the city (much easier to find in Hong Kong or Shanghai).

The guy in the story above actually got a map of China on his neck.

The tattoo culture in mainland China is far smaller than it is in the west. Certainly, the USA has the largest and more flourishing tattoo culture in the world. Many of those Americans get tattoos of Chinese characters (or Japanese Kanji). Yet in China, imagery is much more common than text (words) for tattoos. In fact, when Chinese people get a "text tattoo" that text is most often in English!

It seems everyone wants something different and exotic. For westerners, that's what's so attractive about Chinese characters. But for Chinese, exotic text = English.

Places you are likely to find tattoo parlors in Asia:
Hong Kong, Macao, Shanghai, Taiwan (especially Taipei), and Japan (especially Tokyo and port cities). South Korea is a mixed bag. I saw some tattoos in my travels there, but never a tattoo parlor (maybe they take a trip to Japan for their tattoos).

Tattoos in Asian culture:
For a large part of ancient history in China (and Japan), tattoos were used as punishment.
A criminal would be marked with a tattoo on their forehead in a practice called ("mo xing" in Chinese or "bokkē" in Japanese).

Need some tattoo terms in Chinese or Japanese? Follow this link:
http://www.orientaloutpost.com/dictionary.php?q=tattoo

This punishment was less severe than some of the other "5 punishments" which include cutting off the nose, cutting of a leg, castration, or execution. In Japan, they also offered exile (which probably meant that you'd be sent off to China).

Because tattoos were used as punishment, and to mark criminals, there is a stigma sometimes attached to tattoos in Asia. If you look at the past 50 years, the people most likely to get tattoos in China or Japan were members of organized crime (AKA gangs, mob). Regular people who got tattoos were sometimes thought to be members of gangs.

Japan has been transitioning away from that tattoo stereotype for a decade. However, China is slower to change. You'd be hard-pressed to find a parent who would not be terrified (or highly disappointed) if their son or daughter got a tattoo. In both of these cultures, respect for your elders and family is far more important than it is in the west. Thus fear of disappointing your parents is often a deal-breaker when it comes to tattoos.

The compromise for some Chinese is to get patriotic tattoos. Nobody can say anything bad about such a tattoo, as to do so would also be saying something bad about the country.

Western ideas and culture penetrate Asian culture more and more as time goes on. In the future, tattoos may become a common sight in mainland China and even more common than now in Japan.

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Re: Chinese do get tattoos in mainland, but not what you exp

Post by Gary » Jun 30, 2016 9:33 am

Maybe it's time that I update this topic. It has been 7 years since I wrote the original post.

You can now find a lot more tattoo parlors in mainland China. And in turn, you can find a lot more Chinese people with tattoos. Almost all of them are in their 20s or early 30s. I don't think I have ever seen a tattoo on a 40+ person in China ever - except one old snake head (gang member) in Hong Kong.

What this tells you is that the new generations are dropping the tattoo stigma. It's probably happening about 20+ years after the stigma seemed to go away in the USA.
Don't forget that in the USA, even as late as the 1990s, tattoos were often thought to be realm of criminals, bikers, deviants, gang members, Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and social outcasts. Save the cute girl with the tiny dolphin, heart, flower, butterfly, or teddy bear tattoo on her thigh. The 1990's also marked the birth of the Tramp Stamp - the tattoo that opened the flood gates to "normal" people getting tattoos.

If you are going to get your tattoo inked in Asia. Japan would be my first choice. Otherwise, still head to Shanghai or Hong Kong. Artists there have the most experience - and thus you will get the best results. Also, in general, Japan is a more sterile place. As a culture, there is a lot more emphasis on cleanliness, and pride in doing a quality job the right way in Japan. What this means for you is, less chance of infection.

If I am honest, Japanese women have the best taste in tattoos. I have seen beautiful sakura (cherry blossom), koi fish, flower, and kind of an Asian version of tribal tattoos done really well. In China, I see the occasional plum blossom tattoo done nicely across a woman's back. But often they are afraid to go "all in" and just get a small 3-inch-wide tattoo that seems out-of-place.

If you are going to get a Chinese or Japanese tattoo in the USA, make sure your tattoo artist is native Chinese or Japanese. Otherwise, you really need one of my Asian tattoo templates to be made. A single word or title is still just $20, and $5 for each additional English word. These templates are professionally translated by a native speaker (I speak both Chinese and Japanese, but not natively - that's why I hire native translators to translate and review every tattoo template order). You can order here: http://www.orientaloutpost.com/chinese- ... ervice.php
This is not a money maker for me. The translators make a little for their time, and the rest just goes to maintain the internet server, etc. I was just tired of seeing westerners with Asian tattoos that made no sense, or are dead wrong.

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