Tattooing was popular among many ethnic minorities in
China since ancient time. However, among the Han Chinese (the major ethnic group) Tattoo has
been associated with barbaric, criminals, gangsters and bandits since at least Zhou Dynasty
(1045 BC to 256 BC). Tattooing Chinese character "Prisoner" (囚) or other characters on
convicted's or slave's face was a practice until the last dynasty Qing Dynasty (1644 to
Tattooing has been featured in one of the Five Classic
Novels in Chinese literature, Water Margin, in which at least three of the 108 characters, Lu
Zhi shen (鲁智深), Shi Jin (史進) and Yan Ching (燕青) are described as having tattoos covering nearly
the whole of their bodies. Wu Song (武松) has tattoo on his face due to killing Xi Men Qing (西门庆)
with vengeance. In addition, Chinese legend has it that the mother of Yue Fei (岳飛), the most
famous general of the Song Dynasty, tattooed the words jing zhong bao guo (精忠報國) on his back
with her sewing needle before he left to join the army, reminding him to "repay his country
with pure loyalty".
Marco Polo wrote of Quanzhou "Many come hither from Upper
India to have their bodies painted with the needle in the way we have elsewhere described,
there being many adepts at this craft in the city."
The traditional Han Chinese view especially Confucianism
believes that the body is a gift of parents and continuation of the bloodline of the ancestors.
Damaging the body is a grave offense. Tattooing and piercing (except women's ear piercing) are
generally not accepted by the community. This view can be reflected by the fact that many Han
Chinese were killed at the beginning of Qing Dynasty when they refuse to obey the Manchu
government’s order that all Han Chinese men to shave their forehead (the Manchu hair
Egypt and India Henna and
Henna and Mehndi were popular in ancient India and
ancient Egypt and still remain popular today in the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and North
Tattooing has been a part of Filipino life since
pre-Hispanic colonisation of the Philippine Islands, tattooing in the Philippines to some were
a form of rank and accomplishments, some believed that tattoos had magical qualities. The more
famous tattooed indigenous peoples of the Philippines where among the area up North Luzon,
especially among the Bontoc Igorot, Kalinga, and Ifugao peoples.
Filipino tattooing was first documented by the European
Spanish explorers as they landed among the Islands in the late 16th century. Before European
exploration it was a widespread tradition among the islands. Tattooing was set among the native
groups of the Philippines, which sometimes tattooing was a sign of Rank and power in certain
Pre-Christian Germanic, Celtic and other central and
northern European tribes were often heavily tattooed, according to surviving accounts. The
Picts were famously tattooed (or scarified) with elaborate dark blue woad (or possibly copper
for the blue tone) designs. Julius Caesar described these tattoos in Book V of his Gallic Wars
Ahmad ibn Fadlan also wrote of his encounter with the
Scandinavian Rus' tribe in the early 10th century, describing them as tattooed from
"fingernails to neck" with dark blue "tree patterns" and other. During the gradual process of
Christianization in Europe, tattoos were often considered remaining elements of paganism and
generally legally prohibited.
According to Robert Graves in his book The Greek Myths
tattooing was common amongst certain religious groups in the ancient Mediterranean world, which
may have contributed to the prohibition of tattooing in Leviticus. However, during the classic
Greek period, tattooing was only common among slaves.
Tattooing for spiritual and decorative purposes in Japan
is thought to extend back to at least the Jōmon or Paleolithic period (approximately 10,000
BCE) and was widespread during various periods for both the Japanese and the native Ainu.
Chinese visitors observed and remarked on the tattoos in Japan (300 BCE).
Between 1603 - 1868 Japanese tattooing was only practiced
by the "ukiyo-e" (The floating world culture). generally firemen, manual workers and
prostitutes wore tattoos which communicated their status. Between 1720 - 1870 Criminals were
tattooed as a visible mark of punishment, this actually replaced having ears and noses removed.
A criminal would often receive a single ring on their arm for each crime committed which easily
conveyed their criminality. This practice was eventually abolished by the "Meji" government who
banned the art of tattooing altogether, viewing it as barbaric and unrespectable, this
subsequently forced a sub culture of criminals and outcasts, many of whom were the old Samurai
warriors ("Ronin" - Master less). These people had no place in "decent society" and were
frowned upon, they were kept separate and simply could not integrate into mainstream society
because of their obvious visible tattoos, this forced them into criminal activities which
ultimately formed the roots for the modern Japanese mafia - "Yakuza" for which tattoos in Japan
have almost become synonymous.
An archaic practice in the Middle East involved people
cutting themselves and rubbing in ash during a period of mourning after an individual had died.
It was a sign of respect for the dead and a symbol of reverence and a sense of the profound
loss for the newly departed; and it is surmised that the ash that was rubbed into the
self-inflicted wounds came from the actual funeral pyres that were used to cremate bodies. In
essence, people were literally carrying with them a reminder of the recently deceased in the
form of tattoos created by ash being rubbed into shallow wounds cut or slashed into the body,
usually the forearms.
In Persian culture, tattooing, body painting, and body
piercing has been around for thousands of years. The statues and stone carvings remained from
Achaemenid Empire (550–330 B.C.) prove existence of body piercing and earrings on ancient
Persian gods, kings, and even soldiers. The most famous literal document about Persian tattoo
goes back to about 800 years ago when Rumi, the famous Persian poet, narrates a story about a
man who proudly asks to get a lion tattoo but he changes his mind once he experiences the pain
coming out of the tattoo needle.