Tattoos in China existed since Chinese ancient arts started to get recorded. Those made the foundation of contemporary Chinese tattoo art. Tattoo industry is developing very fast in China nowadays. Just 16 years, it has grown to the largest tattoo industry in the world. A lot of professional art students enter this industry everyday, non-stop, making the Chinese tattoo career to have leaps and bounds. In the Great Hall of the people in Beijing, the first China Forum on the development of the body art industry was launched eight months ago, and it aims to standartize this industry in China.
Nevertheless, in the view of ordinary people(especially the elders), tattoos are incomprehensible.
But what caused them to see tattoos in this way can be totally understandable. The craft of tattooing in Chinese history has been gone through many ups and downs, people from different ages, born in different time periods, all have different acceptance levels. As tattoo artists, what we can do is stick with our ideals and to adhere to them, but also try to let people understand that art can't be judge as just good or bad.
Chinese tattoo culture has already existed in the ancient society in the Neolithic age. From the painted pottery culture to the ruins of Sanxingdui, from the southeast to the southwest of Wu Yue the barbarian, regional distribution of ancient tattoo varieties was very broad. There was a large selection of tattoo graphs. Archaeologists are still studying them, but what they already found proves that tattoos were not able to show the social class of the owner; very possible that it was done in the name of beauty and art.
【图源 Majiayao pottery bottle】
马家窑人头彩陶瓶上，人体各处有纹身 Tattoos are everywhere on these human shape bottles.
Unfortunately, since the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Chinese nation has put the relation between "body" and "pattern" in the context of making difference between high status people and low people. Tattoo was one of the five forms of punishment.
(for example: First Emperor of Qin (259-210 B.C.) ordered to punish the workers which made mistakes while building the Great Wall. They put permanent labels “城旦”(Cheng Dan) on their faces. In the Song Dynasty, in order to prevent escaping of the people who were transported to distant places, “刺配有周” was inked on their faces.) This laid a foreshadowing for most of the Chinese who once believed that tattoos were for bad people.
In the pre-Qin period, the Southern Song Dynasty, famous national hero, patriotic poet and calligrapher Yue Fei had a very special approach to his tattoo岳母刺字, which later became famous, leading a new trend of intelligent tattoos for soldiers.
At that time "健儿纹身"was a very popular kind of tattoo for military people, "赤心报国(serve the country with heart and soul)" was tattooed on soldiers' arms as a reward.
And there were people who loved tattoos like nowadays us do, tattooing beautiful patterns to decorate themselves.
The punishment for criminals "黥墨" still existed at that time. Criminals were getting ink on their faces, for what they have done.
自百越（秦汉时期对壮、布依、傣、侗、仫佬、水、毛南、黎等 8 个民族的统称）以来，我国南方少数民族便有纹身的风俗。
Every minority in Southern China had their own tattoo customs.
In the old book《汉书·地理志》:"Shave and tattoo, to avert dragon make disasters."
The southern part of China is always wet. The beast in the water was a big threat to the survival of our ancestors. And they believed in the gods. Ancestors thought that dragons were the gods of the beasts and animals living in the water, so they tattooed dragon on themselves to disguise themselves as a "dragon", which should get the dragon blessing, helping to avoid the infringement.
In addition, the ancients used the dragon as a totem. In the Dai tattoo culture, they use tattoos to recognize a clan. They think people who have no tattoos, can not have the identity. That they cannot be distinguished from family members, so after they die they can not be together with their ancestors.
《史记·越王勾践世家》:“越王勾践, 其先禹之苗裔……纹身断发, 披草菜而邑焉。”纹身，对南方少数民族而言是“族徽”一般的存在。在影视作品中也把这种纹身文化还原了。
The movie《赛德克·巴莱》 did a good job on reproducing this tattoo culture.
Tang and Song Dynasties of China were very artistic. Tattoo was still used as a tool to punish. Confucianism also does not recommend tattoos. But there are still a lot of artistic souls who want to highlight the behavior of individual consciousness, and this started to be a motivation of having tattoos.
Tattoos as an art began to board on the stage of history. Tattoo gradually became a fashion, which lead to a raise in demand for skillful masters, so being a tattoo master became a profession.
Tang people loved poetry, but they also loved tattoos; Merging two together became a poem tattooed on the body.
Someone tattooed the whole set of article from Wang Wei, Some tattooed Bai Juyi, Luo Yinshi's poem, some rich people even tattoo the name, age, appearance and home address of the women they have slept with, known as "针史(the history of the needle)".
At that time, people from "蜀(Sichuan/Chengdu area) had the best tattoo skills among all areas. The most often choice of tattoo patterns are toads or scorpions.
During Song Dynasty, people mostly were rich and enjoying life more. They loved to get social and hang out.
In the Tang Dynasty, people already leaded the trend of tattoo culture going forward. In the Song Dynasty, tattoos became even more and more popular.
Take 水浒传(The Water Margin; All Men Are Brothers, a popular fiction by Shi Nai'an) as an example, Shi Naian gave tattoos a wonderful name: "花雕(flower embroidery)". A tattoo on the most beautiful prostitute in the book Li Shishi was described as "Phoenix with broken jade, peacock wearing flowers".
But after Song Dynasty, no more wonderful history about tattoos appear. There were many tattoos in the Yuan Dynasty, but it was still used as the punishment to criminals.
The commercial tattoo records since the Tang until Yuan never stopped, but until the Ming Dynasty, it disappeared. This may be related to the official ban at that time.
In modern times, especially in the beginning of reform and opening up, from film and television we could see a lot of dark forces people wearing tattoos. Media turned tattoos into a symbol of badness, negativity.
Chinese tattoos now include history, painting, anatomy, the laws of human skin activity, metaphysics, and acupuncture...
The requirements to be a tattoo artist are particularly high. We need to know whether the composition is beautiful or not, whether the shadings and linings can be skillfully made... A tattoo artist needs to carefully think through all these details in advance. If it's made purely for commercial interests, it shows that the tattoo artist doesn't treat the art and its future owner properly.
Nowadays in China, more and more people begin to see tattoos as a symbol of art, fashion and personalized culture. They use it to vent the voice in their hearts and make personality public.
The tattoo market in China is not standartized, artists do not need certificates. The level of tattoo artists skills is hard to measure. Those are also a few of the reasons why gogo.tattoo appeared.
Nowadays, the number of tattoo shops in China is getting bigger and bigger, and the prices have no standard. Some highly skilled artists who have worked many years and become famous, such as these tattoo artists who attended the meeting in the Great Hall of the people in Beijing, of course, they deserve their time and skills to cost more.
The artists are exchanging their time and their experience, therefore price certainly shows appreciation and respect to the art.
There are also some very skillful new tattoo artists who promote tattoos as if they sell simple items.
Some tattoo shops are merely being copy cats, doing online pictures for whatever price. Since tattoos are not popular in the commercial culture right now in China, many clients still don't have a developed way of thought what tattoo is and why to get it.
Well, let's judge for ourselves. But what I am trying to say here is that tattoos need to be designed and need to be customized. I'm afraid tattoo might be seen as the freest and the most selfish thing in the world, but this is a thing that should only reflect your will and should only belong to you.
Tattoo shall be a luxury, it must not be copied all over. It must not be taken away from you. It is a valuable art and worth to be carried for a lifetime. I hope every tattoo lover can have their own wonderful tattoo, to reflect their own soul.
If you have a chance to come to Shanghai, you will have an opportunity to see the the grand market in China. Annual tattoo exhibition emerges in an endless stream soon after.
This year in May we were in St Petersburg for Tattoo Weekend, it was recorded on gogo.tattoo Offical Steemit. This September we will be participating in the Shanghai Autumn International Tattoo Convention.
We will share what happened on Steemit and we also will share more insights into tattoo behavior analysis.
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我是纹身师gogo - With love