Tattoos in ancient china

Tattoos in ancient china have become a raging phenomenon among tattoo enthusiasts of the western world. Chinese tattoos offer beautiful characters with a sense of the exotic and often much deeper meaning than that which lies on the surface.

1. Ci Shen – Tattoos in ancient china

tattoos in ancient china

  • The art of tattooing has been known in China for thousands of years. Tattooing in China is called Ci Shen (Or Wen Shen), a term that means literally “puncture the body.”
  • Although the art has been known in China for ages, it has for the most part been an uncommon practice.
  • Throughout Chinese history tattooing has been seen as a defamation of the body, something undesirable.
  • Water Margin, one of the four classical novels of Chinese literature, does reference tattooing.
  • Water Margin tells the stories of bandits of Mount Liang area of China during the early 12th century.
  • The novel talks about the 108 companions of the historical bandit Song Jiang. Three of these characters are referenced as having tattoos covering their entire bodies.

2. Tattoos in ancient china – Ethnic Group

  • Although tattooing does not have a strong tradition among mainstream Chinese, many Chinese minority groups have much stronger tattooing traditions.
  • Strongest among these are the Dulong and Dai tribes, along with the Li people of Hainan Island.

3. Dulong Tattoos

tattoos in ancient china

  • Tattooing among women of the Dulong group, who live along the Dulong River, dates back to the Ming Dynasty some 350 years ago.
  • During this time the Dulong were under attack from many of their neighbors, and the women would often be taken as slaves.
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4. Dai Tattoos

  • The Dai people of China have an ancient tattooing tradition. Both men and women among the Dai are tattooed.
  • Dai women are generally tattooed on the backs of their hands, their arms or have a small dot tattooed between their eyebrows.
  • Among Dai men tattoos are seen as a sign of strength and virility.
  • Generally tattoos will be made in such a way as to accentuate and draw attention to their muscles.
  • Although there are no fixed traditional designs among the Dai people, most commonly the tattoos will be of a ferocious beast such as a dragon or a tiger.

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