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  Chinese Way>Custom

Tattoos in China

2012-12-26 16:37:24


The art of tattooing is a traditional phenomenon that can be dated back to the formative period of China and provides an insight to the development of China’s ancient society and its primitive religion.

A tattooing process involves the inserting of indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin; a tattoo is sometimes considered, in some ways, a totem of which a certain group of people share worship.

With a long and arduous struggle with nature, Chinese ancestors developed an intimate connection with their surroundings. Out of fear for big animals and perceived monsters, they began to wear tattoos as a best way to guard off threats.

The other function of a tattoo was to gain blessings from their deceased. In some ethnic groups, like Li and Dai people, tattoos are believed to have the power to communicate with the deceased; through that power, people could seek material gains, such as wealth, many offspring and family health from their otherwise unacquainted ancestors.

Some ethnic groups also use ink to express their admiration for courage, happiness and other pleasures. Bai and Dai people would tattoo pictures of lions and dragons to represent dignity, tigers and pigs to provide safety, and bulls and spells to bring good health.

However, tattoos were used as a humiliating punishment in the Qin and Han dynasties because the officials would prick Chinese characters on their face which indicated that they were despicable for their illegal activities, such as theft and adultery.

Today, tattoos have evolved from a religious totem to body modification. It can be widely seen among the fashion--conscious youth as they use it to showcase their personality or peculiarities.

By Xu Xinlei