The Chinese art of tattooing the body, called Ci Shen, has been known for thousands of years, however it has never been popular with mainstream Chinese people. In fact, it is thought of as defacing the body and is frowned upon. Several minority tribes in China do practice the art of tattoo, but as rule, the general public refrains from the practice.
- A Single Character: A single letter from the Chinese alphabet can represent strong emotions or concepts such as love, courage, faith or gratitude. These simple designs are both artistic and beautiful and are often chosen for their simplicity. Many people choose a single letter to represent an emotion or concept that is important in their lives or a state of being like peaceful and tranquil that they strive for.
- Animal Names: This includes the animals of the Chinese zodiac. They may be chosen for the symbolism associated with the animal, the traits of the zodiac sign or to honor a particular animal. This means the same tattoo can carry different meanings depending on the intent of the wearer. Its size and placement varies, but it typically worn as a small tattoo.
- Cherry Blossoms: This delicate tattoo is popular with women and typically features soft pinks and white blooms. It may include the entire tree laden with blooms or tiny branch with several small flowers. The cherry blossom tattoo can be worn on the upper back and extend up the neck or be placed on the arm, wrist, leg or ankle. It is an acceptable tattoo in most work places and typically evokes feels of warmth and gentleness.
- Koi Fish: The koi fish hold an important position in Chinese culture as it symbolizes overcoming obstacles to fulfill your life’s goals. The orientation of the koi fish tattoo also relays important information. If the koi is swimming upstream, it symbolizes overcoming new challenges, while a koi swimming downstream sends the message that the wearer has already overcome difficult challenges. This tattoo varies in complexity and size and can be worn in nearly any location.
- Chinese Dragon: This versatile design takes many forms, from tiny flying dragons in a multitude of colors to large black dragons breathing fire. Traditional black dragons are typically worn by men, placed on the biceps or chest, but small dragons can be worn in any location. Women may prefer miniature dragons on the wrist or ankle.
- Laughing Buddha: The laughing Buddha is traditionally designed in black and white, but it may contain other colors. This tattoo symbolizes prosperity. It can be worn in nearly any location, but if you are a lady concerned about wearing professional attire, you might want this tattoo in a location that is easy to cover. While this tattoo typically evokes positive feelings and brings a ready smile, some people may not take you seriously in a work environment with this jolly tattoo in plain sight.
- A Name or Phrase: Many people enjoy tattoos of a loved one’s name or a favorite quote written in Chinese writing. These can be small and discrete or a bold display that contains bright colors and can be worn in nearly any location by both men and women. But beware! Stories abound of people who chose a Chinese phrase as a tattoo only to discover afterward the lettering did not say what they thought it did. If you choose a name or phrase written in Chinese letters, double check the meaning of the symbols before you make it permanent.
Many people enjoy Chinese tattoos for the beauty of the Chinese tattoo art, while others choose them for their symbolic meaning. If you are considering a Chinese or Asian tattoo, research the meaning of your particular design to make sure you are really sending the message you intend to broadcast to the world.