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Chinese and Tattoos


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There are many requests by non-Chinese both here and other Chinese (and Japanese) websites asking what a certain group of characters mean. Much of the time the translation they get is too late. Other than the Japanese Yakuza tattoos, I don't know the cultural view of any Asian countries or people(s) and tattoos. What is the general feeling or sentiment in Chinese culture concerning tattoos? Or what is your personal feeling?



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I know this is completely off topic, but I object to being called a gwailo. I am white and not Chinese, but that doesn't make me a ghost or devil. Could you please not use that word anymore.

More ontopic: I see a lot of tattoos here, some people seem to think it's for mei you jiaoyu people, but a lot of other people seem to like them a lot.

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There is a long history of tattooing among some of the minority peoples of southern China, particularly the Zhuang.

Here, in Liuzhou, the Tang Dynasty poet, Liu Zongyuan, who was exiled here (he got on the wrong side of the Emperor)wrote this.




At this lofty tower where the town ends, wilderness begins;

And our longing has as far to go as the ocean or the sky....

Hibiscus-flowers by the moat heave in a sudden wind,

And vines along the wall are whipped with slanting rain.

Nothing to see for three hundred miles but a blur of woods and mountain --

And the river's nine loops, twisting in our bowels....

This is where they have sent us, this land of tattooed people --

And not even letters, to keep us in touch with home.

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I will remove the word from my post.
Thank you.
Do any Chinese have Chinese (character) tattoos there in Taipei?
Haven't seen them, most tattoos I see are either tribals (the curly things) or pictures of something or the other. Tribal tattoos on fingers and hands seem to be in for girls. I would be a bit wary of that, if you would regret it later in life (or if your employer wouldn't like it at some later point) you can hardly cover it up.

Some Aboriginal tribes here traditionally tattooed women's faces when they came of age (only women I think), they don't do that anymore now, but the practice seems not to have completely died out: I recently saw a picture of girls in such a ceremony who had painted their face to look like those tattoos.

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  • 2 months later...

In Zhou dynasty, the natives who lived in today’s' Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas were known to be tattooed people. They were the race of Bai Yue. It was considered a sign of their barbarism. They mixed with the central plain Chinese later and probably stopped the practice. Since then, tattoos were part of the punishment for certain criminals in Chinese history, so it had bad associations.

Tattoos became more popular in the 5 dynasty 10 kingdom period. One of the kings in the 10 kingdoms, 郭威, is supposed to be known for his tattoos of 9 雀 (It's a kind of small birds, and I am not sure of the English words). His nick name is 郭雀兒. However, only bad boys were supposed to get tattoos. In the Song dynasties, people who are criminals or soldiers were tattooed, so it did mean something bad. However, there were some stories about people admiring some guys’ tattoos, and the hero, Yue Fei, also had tattoos, so it might be considered cool or tough in some ways.

In modern days, Taiwan and Hong Kong had a lot of Japanese influences. The gangsters in both places like to have elaborate tattoos like the Japanese Yakuza. I just want to mention that if you visit either Taiwan or Hong Kong and go into a restaurant with lots of men with Yakuza styled tattoos, that restaurant probably serves very good food. :mrgreen:

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