Tattoo culture in China

In China, tattoos have traditionally been associated with prisoners or members of criminal gangs. Against this background, it is understandable that some Chinese elders still view this form of body art with a certain degree of contempt.

In addition to tattoos being considered the mark of a convicted man, they have long been part of tribal rituals, particularly in southern China. The tattooing practices of some of China’s indigenous people spread west along the Silk Road, which stretched from Xi’an in central China all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
Tattoos for bravery and beauty

Known as ci shen in China, which means “puncture the body”, tattooing has long-been a tradition among China’s Derung and Dai minorities. According to their custom, Derung girls are tattooed at the age of 12 or 13 as a symbol of their maturity.

Typically, the tattoo consists of lines drawn between the eyebrows, on the cheeks and around the mouth in such a way as to form a butterfly. According to ancient practice, the tattoos are made by first drawing on the skin using coal-blackened water and by puncturing the skin with a thorn. Once scabs form, the tattoo becomes permanent.

The tradition of tattooing women was born during the Ming dynasty when villages were often attacked by rival ethnic groups, who would kidnap and rape the village women. To avoid this fate, women tried to appear uglier by tattooing their faces. The practice of facial tattooing still persists among the Derung people today, but only as a coming of age ritual.

Dai women have traditionally sported tattoos on the back of their hands, arms or between their eyebrows. For men, tattoos served to show off their muscularity, which is why most tattooed their biceps, backs or chests. The designs were mostly animal-themed and made using black plant extract.

Dai people also believed tattoos would protect them against attacks by mythical creatures, as black skin would scare the monsters away. Today, tattoos are mainly used to symbolise female beauty and male bravery. They are also a useful means of recognising members of the same ethnic group.
China’s most famous tattoo

The most famous tattoo to appear in Chinese history is that of Yue Fei (1103-1142), a renowned general from the South Song Dynasty. When he joined the military forces fighting off the enemy from the north, his trusted troop leader suddenly jumped ship and joined the enemy ranks.

Disgusted by this treachery, Yue Fei resigned and returned home to care for his mother. At home, Yue Fei’s mother was displeased with her son’s decision to leave the fighting fields in the midst of war and lectured him about how a soldier’s first duty was being loyal to his country.

To make sure her son would never forget this principle, she tattooed on his back the words jĭn zhōng bào guó, which translate into ‘ultimate’, ‘loyalty’, ‘serve’, ‘country’.

Now carrying a tattoo on his back, Yue Fei went back to war and advanced through the ranks to become a respected general. Over 875 years later, he remains the epitome of loyalty in Chinese culture.
From tattoo ban to fashion trend

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Mao Zedong banned tattoos in China, calling them a manifestation of impurity and roguery. This attitude still persists today, as military personnel, for example, are still forbidden to have tattoos. Similarly, some enterprises have a policy of not hiring people who have tattoos or other body ornamentation.

Chinese authorities tend to be prejudiced against people boasting tattoos on their skins, as they are considered to be affiliated with illegal or anti-social activities. In the past, some judges even ordered convicted rapists and murderers to have their faces tattooed as part of their punishment.

Despite the negative associations, China’s young people have begun getting tattoos and piercings as part of their fashion. This has been helped by an increasing number of trend-setting celebrities being tattooed, as well as cultural changes sweeping across Chinese society.

Attitudes are slowly changing, but most parents still oppose the idea of their offspring covering their body with noticeable and sometimes provocative art. According to the Chinese philosophy of thought, a person’s body is a precious gift from his or her parents and, therefore, should never be abused or blemished with a tattoo.

With so much history and undesirable connotations, tattoo culture in China has a long way to become fully accepted. However, tattoos remain an effective way of communicating ones likes and convictions, which might just help the country increase its respect for individuality and freedom.

A history of Chinese tattoos and Chinese tattooing traditions

Chinese tattoos 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.

A history of Chinese tattoos and Chinese tattooing traditions
Ci Shen – Chinese Tattoos

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.

A history of Chinese tattoos and Chinese tattooing traditions
The most famous tattoo in Chinese history comes from the legend of the Chinese general Yueh Fei. Yueh Fei served the South Song Dynasty. During battle with northern enemies the Field Marshall under whom Yueh Fei served betrayed the South Song and went over to the enemy.

In protest Yueh Fei resigned and returned home. His mother grew angry with him, telling him that his duty was first and foremost to his country, despite all else. To remind him of this fact she tattooed four characters on his back with her sewing needle. These characters, jin zhong bao guo, are difficult to translate but mean something like “Serve his country with ultimate loyalty.”

At some points in Chinese history Chinese tattoos were also used to mark criminals. Criminals convicted of a severe crime would be ordered to have a tattoo printed on their face and exiled into a faraway land. Even should the criminal ever return the tattoo would mark them forever as a criminal? This form of punishment was known as Ci Pei (Tattoo/Exile).

In modern China Chinese tattoos have grown somewhat of a stigma as being affiliated with organized crime and the criminal underworld.

Chinese Tattoos among Chinese 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.

Dulong Tattoos

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.

A history of Chinese tattoos and Chinese tattooing traditions
The Dulong women began tattooing their faces in reaction. It was thought that the tattoos would make them uglier and less likely to be raped. This tradition has continued into modern times despite the fact that the Dulong are no longer under attack from neighboring tribes.

At the age of 12 or 13 all Dulong girls are tattooed on their faces. This is a rite of passage among Dulong women and is seen as a sign of maturity.

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.

In ancient times Dai tattoos were given to young children of the ages of 5 or 6, however it grew to be more common to be given about the ages of 14 or 15, sort of a rite of passage into adulthood. Tattooing among the Dai is still practiced to this day.

The History of Tattoos

Primitive Tattoos

Skin was the first canvas for art. Sticks and other pointy objects were the first paintbrushes. Tattooing was first a form of scarification. This involved wounding oneself and packing dirt or ashes into the scrape or cut to discolor it permanently. It is believed that prehistoric man cut holes in his skin, charred sticks in the fire, let them cool and then applied the black substance to the wound to create tribal markings.

As tattooing involved pain, blood and fire, primitive man believed the process released sacred life forces. The letting of blood was also associated with a sacrifice to the Gods. The symbol or animal form of the tattoo was thought to bring one protection from attack from that very same animal.

Tattoos were also used to bring one’s soul in alignment with God’s purpose, increase virility and fertility, ensure the preservation of the body after the death and delineate hierarchies and roles within tribes. For instance, a tribal chieftain would have a very different tattoo than the individual in the tribe who was thought to bring them all bad luck.

As skin does not preserve that well there is very archeological evidence that prehistoric people engaged in tattooing, although a few Paleolithic artifacts that have been discovered seem to suggest that the art of tattooing is as old as mankind.

Funereal Art

Tattooing in ancient history was a funereal art. Images of tattooing are found on Egyptian female figurines that are dated between 4000 and 2000 years BC. Libyan figures from the tomb of Seti (1330 B.C.) also boast figures with tattoo markings on the arms and the legs.

Both in ancient and modern times, primitive people believe that the spirit or astral body resembles an invisible human body. This is similar to many modern occultist beliefs about the astral body. Tattoos are applied so that the spirit is allowed to pass into the spirit world undisturbed by evil entities. The primitive peoples of Borneo believe that the right tattoo ensures prompt passage to the other side as well as a guaranteed positive occupation in the spirit world.

The ancient Egyptians reportedly spread the practice of tattooing throughout the world. The pyramid-building third and fourth dynasties of Egypt developed international nations that ruled Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia. By 2000 B.C. the art of tattooing had found its way to Southeast Asia and the Ainu (western Asian nomads) then brought it with them on their migrations to Japan. Elsewhere, the Shans of China introduced the craft to the Burmese, who still include tattooing as part of their religious practices.

Today, tattoos are still used to create a spirit connection with deceased loved one and family members. These types of tattoos are rarer, but they often appear as hearts with initials, tombstones with parent’s initials and heavenly symbols such as five, six and seven pointed stars.

Branding

Around the same time, the Japanese became interested in the art but only for its decorative attributes. The Horis — the Japanese tattoo artists — were the undisputed ancient masters of the color tattoo. Their use of pigments, perspective, and imaginative designs gave the practice a whole new appearance. During the first millennium A.D., Japan adopted Chinese culture and confined tattooing to branding wrongdoers.

In the Balkans, the Thracians had a different use for the craft. Aristocrats, according to Herodotus (500 B.C.) were tattooed to show the world their social status. Although early Europeans dabbled with tattooing, they truly rediscovered the art form when they explored new cultures in the South Pacific. It was a familiarity with the tattoos of Polynesian and American Indian tribes that introduced tattoos to the modern Europe. The word, in fact, is derived from the Tahitian word tattau, which means, “to mark.”

Most of the early uses of tattoos were ornamental. However, a number of civilizations had practical applications for this craft. The Goths, a tribe of Germanic barbarians famous for pillaging Roman settlements, used tattoos to brand their slaves. Romans also tattooed slaves and criminals.

Tattooing was first associated with criminality in the Mediterranean region in the middle of the third century. These labels would include the crime, the punishment and the names of the criminal’s victims branded on their foreheads. In ancient Greece and Rome, slaves with tattoos could never become citizens, even if they were able to buy their freedom. This was because a tattoo was seen as degrading to the bearer. In essence, the tattoos were permanent marks of guilt. Eventually those tattooed out of punishment started to be proud of their markings. Tattoos are still a mark of honor among criminals today.

In Tahiti, tattoos were a rite of passage and told the history of the person’s life. Men were marked when they reached adulthood when they got married. When the Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled Bosnia, military authorities tattooed all of the soldiers in order to recognize them in case they chose to flee conscription.

Clan Markings

Primitive peoples also used tattoos to create what are called clan markings. These marking came in handy during battle to identify foe from friend. These tattoos also guaranteed that you would be able to greet your friends again in heaven, after you had passed away.

Family and marriage tattoos were also clan markings that enabled spouses who were separated in death to find each other again in the afterworld. A good example of this is the ancient Ainu tribe who believed that a bride without a tattoo would go straight to Gehenna – their version of hell.

In the Americas, native tribes used simple pricking to tattoo their bodies or faces. In California some native groups injected color into the scratches. Some northern tribes living in and around the Arctic Circle (mostly Inuit) made punctures with a needle and ran a thread coated with soot through the skin. The South Pacific community would tap pigment into the pricked skin using a small rake-like instrument.

In New Zealand, the Maori would treat the body like a piece of wood in order to make their world-famous moko style tattoos. Using a small bone-cutting tool, they would carve intricate shallow grooves on the face and buttocks, and infuse them with color. Thanks to trading with Europeans, they were able to make the method more efficient by using metal tools instead of bone.

A “moko”, meaning to strike or tap, is the long-standing art form of Maori tattooing. This art form has been practiced for over a thousand years, and has withstood time and colonization. It was used as a form of identification with regards to rank, genealogy, tribal history, eligibility to marry, beauty and virility. Moko designs were finely chiseled into the skin. Maori women were traditionally only allowed to be tattooed on their lips, around the chin, and sometimes the nostrils. A woman with full blue lips was seen as very beautiful.

Rites of Passage

Primitive people also tattooed their adolescents as a rite of passage. The theory was that if a young boy couldn’t take the pain of a tattoo at a young age, then he would be useless at battle. Similarly, if a young girl couldn’t handle the pain of a tattoo, she would not be able to handle the pain of childbirth. Many of these children ended up with a tattoo anyway, that would label them as an outcast of the tribe.

Totem animals are also another common motif in primitive tattoos. Totem animals such as snakes, frogs, butterflies wolves or bears signified that the individual has taken on the physical prowess of that animal. In some cultures, the totem animal is thought to have a special spiritual relationship with the bearer of tattoo and acts as a spirit guide. From the South Pacific to the South America, primitive people have customs involved with their tattooing rituals. Usually the person being tattooed is separated from others, smudged, isolated from the opposite sex or fed a special diet.

From primitive times to now, Hawaiians celebrate specific tattoo gods. The designs associated with each God are locked away in the temples and priests conduct tattooing. Each tattooing session begins with a prayer to tattoo gods that implores that the operation goes well and that the designs be gorgeous in the end.

Love Charms

In the ancient and primitive worlds, tattoos were also used as love charms. Often the dye used for these types of tattoos was concocted from magical ingredients. For instance, the dye for an ancient Burmese love charm is made from a recipe that consists of a bright purple pigment called vermilion and the skins of a trout and a spotted lizard. This tattoo was usually a small triangle created by three dots and was concealed by clothing so that others could not identify it.

Nowadays the equivalents of magic love tattoos are Celtic knots, hearts, cherubs, the Venus symbol and love goddesses.

Physical Health

In ancient Asian cultures, tattoos were often applied to ensure long term physical health. The Tibetans equated designs called mantra wheels with many minutes of chanting. These designs were tattooed on chakra (energy points) on the body to help the bearer of the tattoo achieve physical, emotional and spiritual harmony. Sometimes tattoos were created from medicinal dyes and marked on acupuncture points of the body in an attempt to cure chronic health problems and diseases.

In quite a few cultures an image of a God or Goddess could also be tattooed on an acupuncture point or an afflicted part of the body in an attempt to heal it. In India, the Monkey God, Hanuman, was tattooed on dislocated shoulders. Older Maori women tattooed their lips and face to prevent failing vision. Ainu women tattooed a Goddess on their skin so that the evil spirits that bestowed disease would mistake them for the Goddess and flee in terror.

Good Luck

Historically tattoos have always been thought to bring the wearer good luck. In China, tattooing one’s animal astrological symbol, such as The Pig or The Horse is thought to bring good fortune. Images of Koi, carp or goldfish were thought to bring prosperity and wealth to the bearer.

In Burma, a parrot tattooed on the shoulder is thought to bring luck. In Thailand, a scroll representing Buddha in the posture of meditation is said to charm Lady Luck. Card tattoos such as the Ace of Spades and the Ten of Diamonds were worn by American soldiers in Vietnam to protect against bad luck and venereal disease.

Celtic Tattoos

In the 1970s, the counter culture in America rediscovered the beauty of primitive and tribal taboos. The most copied designs are primarily from Borneo, Japan, and the islands of the South Pacific. In the 1980’s, Celtic tattoos became very popular, probably as a result of the popularity of Wiccan and pagan religions among young people. Most modern Celtic designs are sourced from ancient scrolls called the Irish Illuminated Manuscripts, which were created during the sixth and seventh centuries. As before that the Celts did not keep written records, designs are also found in ancient stone and metal work. Before the sixth century, these ancient peoples often tattooed or painted their faces and bodies to protect them from evil spirits and ensure victory in battle. The knotwork tradition of tattooing that was derived from Celtic manuscripts spread from Britain and Ireland to Scotland. Viking invaders eventually appropriated many of the Celtic designs into their own culture, often adding totem animals into the interlacing designs.

Celtic knots are “zoomorphic” meaning that each strand of the design connects or spirals into another strand. Often these designs will graphically terminate in images of the feet, heads and tails of animals and other natural symbols. These animals were emblematic of different Celtic tribes and nationalities.

Roman documents also indicate that ancient British and Scottish peoples may have tattooed themselves before entering into battle. Ancient stones from Gaul also show leaders with tattooed faces. These tattoos were created from woad, a plant that produces blue dye. A body of a Pict found frozen in the permafrost in Siberia indicated that these pre-Celtic peoples tattooed using puncture marks to create the forms and outlines of animals using woad as the dye.

The Romans often employed Celtic tutors for their children. Many of these tutors were Druid priests.

An ancient Roman recipe for tattoo ink, courtesy of the long deceased Roman physician Aetius

1 lb. of Egyptian pine wood bark
2 ounces of corroded bronze, ground with vinegar
2 ounces of gall (insect egg deposits)
1 oz. of vitriol (iron sulphate)

Mix well and sift. Soak powder in 2 parts water and 1 part leek juice. Wash the skin to be tattooed with leek juice. Prick design with needles until blood is drawn. Rub in the ink.

Pilgrim Tattoos

The rise of the Christian and Islamic religions brought a halt to tattooing in the Europe in the Middle East. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of Leviticus states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” This crede against tattooing caused the practice to disappear for about two thousand years as both the Christians and the Moslems revere the Old Testament.

Still despite the widespread popularity of this religious belief, pilgrims in the Middle Ages still got tattoos once they reached the Holy Land to prove to the folks back home that they had actually made the journey. The Coptic priests who sat outside the walls of Jerusalem waiting for tourists practiced this kind of tattooing. Usually these tattoos were just a simple cross, but some pilgrims opted for more elaborate symbols of their trip such as images of the Pieta or St. George slaying the Dragon.

Moslem pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina also returned from their trips boasting commemorative tattoos. These Moslem pilgrims believed that, by being cremated at death, they would be purified by fire, before entering paradise and thus are forgiven for transgressing Levictus’s proclamation.

Oriental Tattoos

In Japan, tattooing reached its height in the 18th century images from traditional watercolor paintings; woodcuts and picture books were the basis of the design. Japanese tattoo artists were usually also ukiyoe woodblock artists, who simply exchanged their wood-carving blades for long, sharp needles. This long process has come to produce what is known as the uniquely-Japanese traditional art tattoo art form, called horimono.

Sailor and Military Tattoos

When European explorers first arrived in the New World, they discovered that tattooing was a large part of the stone-age culture practiced by Native Americans. Common among most tribes were geometric patterns and dots that were applied to celebrate the individual’s passage into puberty. Many tribes, including the Sioux Indians believed that a tatoo was necessary in order to gain passage into the other world. After an almost two thousand year absence from popular culture, the phenomena of tattooing re-emerged after explorers brought tales of it home after they had sighted examples of it in the North and South Americas.

Tattooing was also very popular among sailors who, from the 1600’s to the 1940’s tattooed a chicken on one foot and a pig on the other to protect them from death by drowning. During World War II, the big symbol that protected sailors from drowning were twin propellers (one tattooed on each buttock) meant to symbolically propel you to the shore.

Images of bluebirds inked on the chest were often used to mark the number of miles a sailor had spent a sea. Each bluebird represented 5,000 miles logged at sea. If a sailor had sailed south past the equator he sometimes got a picture of Neptune tattooed n his leg. If he crossed the international dateline, a sailor owned the right to wear a tattoo of a dragon. A hula girl tattoo meant the sailor had been to Honolulu. Female underwear and stockings tattooed on the sailor’s body meant that he had been on more than one cruise.

Chatham Square in New York City became the epic-center for tattoos in pre-civil war days in the United States. Sailors, gang members and low-lifes (who often boasted elaborate tattoos on their torsos and forearms) frequented this area known for its beer halls and sex parlors.

Sailors passed the long hours at sea “pricking” designs into their own skin or that of their mates. These designs were a mix of patriotic and protective images. Often gunpowder was mixed into the ink, as gunpowder was though to possess magical powers of longevity and protection. The seamen of that day were familiar with tattoos because of their extensive travel. They had seen the dragons of the China, the Christian charms and evil eyes of the people and the highly detailed designs of Edo and Yokohama worn by the citizens of Japan. Sailors bearing these exotic designs, passed through the port of New York everyday, greatly influencing and broadening the very concept of “tattoo” itself.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, thousands of men from New York were conscripted into the Union Army. The demand for patriotic designs grew tremendously during that war and thousands of individuals were tattooed on the battlefield. Favorite designs often included depictions of major battles complete with sky and landscape.

Electronic Tattoo Machines

Tattooing was revolutionized by Samuel O’Reilly’s invention of the electric tattoo machine during the last decade of the 19th century. The time required to complete a design went from hours to minutes, moving the art away from personally conceived, hand picked designs towards stock choices that were displayed like art on the walls of the tattoo parlor. Much of this tattooing was also conducted in the back of beer halls and barbershops.

The years ahead would see vast improvements in O’Reilly’s machine, plus the establishment of tattoo equipment manufacturing companies. This machine was the prototype for the tattoo gun that is the standard of the industry today. In the 1920’s and 30’s the styling of tattoos adapted to include comic strip characters like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, Lindbergh’s crossing, stars and starlets of the silver screen and phrases that were popularized in the press. Cosmetic tattooing also originated during this time period. Many artists offering specialties such as moles and beauty marks rosy cheeks, permanent eyeliner and red lips to both male and female customers.

Modern Tattoos

In the 1960s tattooing for art’s sake alone became popular and nowadays the sight of a tattoo on someone’s shoulder, hip or ankle has become commonplace. In recent years Celtic Tattoos have enjoyed a revival, as have primitive tattoos. Some people collect tattoos the way others collect antiques or works of art. Others are interested in the super sleek designs that are a product of the thinking of the 21st century such as biomechanical designs (which look like muscles beneath the flesh) and designs that resemble the interior workings of cyborgs.

In the 1970s, artists trained in traditional fine art disciplines began to embrace tattooing and brought innovative imagery and drawing techniques to the industry. Advances in electric needle guns and pigments provided them with new ranges of color, delicacy of detail and artistic possibilities. The physical nature of many local tattooing establishments also changed as increasing numbers of operators adopted equipment and procedures resembling those of medical clinics — particularly in areas where tattooing is regulated by government health regulations.

The cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved from that of an anti-social activity in the 1940s to that of a trendy fashion statement in the year 200s. First adopted and flaunted by influential rock stars like the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s, tattooing had, by the late 1980s, become accepted by mainstream society. Today, tattoos are routinely seen on rock stars, professional sports figures, ice skating champions, fashion models, movie stars and other public figures who play a significant role in setting the pace of contemporary culture.

During the last fifteen years, two distinct classes of tattoo business have emerged. The first is the “tattoo parlor” that glories in a sense of urban outlaw culture, advertises itself with garish exterior signage and offers less than sanitary surroundings. The second is the “tattoo art studio” that most frequently features custom and fine art designs, all of the features of a high end beauty and “by-appointment” services only. Today’s fine art tattoo studio draws the same kind of clients as a jewelry store, fashion boutique, or highend antique shop.

Tattooing today is the sixth-fastest-growing retail business in the United States. The single fastest growing demographic group seeking tattoo services is middle-class suburban women.

Tattooing is recognized by government agencies as both an art form and a profession. As tattoo-related artwork is considered to be fine art, tattoo designs are the subject of museum and gallery art shows across the United States, Canada and Europe. Nowadays everything from Andy Warhol portraits to Teletubbies to instant messenger smiley face icons just about any image is fair game for a tattoo. Your choice of a tattoo design is only as limited as the reaches of your imagination!

Introduction of Polynesian Tattoo History

As this study is all about Polynesian Tattoo History, we’ll introduce as precisely as we can. So where to begin? Before leading you into the detailed explanation of Polynesian Tattoo History, let us give you a glance of Polynesian culture first.

The Origins of Polynesian Culture and its Geographical Covered Area
There’re still debates about the origins of Polynesian culture (debate details can be found by searching “Polynesian Culture” in wikipedia), but one thing we can ensure is that Polynesia is not a single tribe but a complex one. Polynesians which includes Marquesans, Samoans, Niueans, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Māori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia. It’s a sub-region of Oceania, comprising of a large grouping of over 1 ,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean, within a triangle that has New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island as its corners. The two pictures below clearly show this triangle:
Earth view of Polynesia triangle map
The Map View of Polynesia Triangle
People who live in these islands are regarded as Polynesians for their similar traits in language, customs, society and culture. Some people’s question about the differences between Polynesian and Samoan, Marquesans, Tongans or Tahitian tattoos (e.g.) can be answered here: They are just a branch of Polynesian Tattoos and each branch has its own subtle features. However few people know or realize the differences among them today.

The Origins of the Word “Tattoo”
The Spanish navigator, Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira
The first visited Polynesian islands were the Marquesas Islands, which is found by European explorers, the Spanish navigator, Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, in 1595. But the European navigators showed little interest due to the lack of valuable resources.
Captain James Cook was the first navigator trying to explore the whole Polynesia Triangle. The naturalist aboard “the HMS Endeavour” (Captain Cook’s ship), Joseph Banks, first mentioned the word “tattoo” (Also called “Tatau” by Samoan and “Tatu” by Tahitian) in his journal: “I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humor or disposition”.
Captain James CookIn 1771, when James Cook first returned to Tahiti and New Zealand from his first Voyage, the word “tattoo” appeared in Europe. He narrated a behavior of Polynesian in his voyage, which is called “tattaw”. He also brought a Tahitian named Ma’i to Europe and since then tattoo started to become rapidly famous because of the tattoos of Ma’i. Another saying is that the Polynesian tattoos were fond of by European sailors and spread extremely fast in Europe because they were with the tattoos emblazoned on their bodies when back home after voyages.

The Development and Inheritance of Polynesian Tattoos
Traditional Polynesian Tattooing ToolsThe tradition of Polynesian tattooing existed from 2000 years ago. In 18th century this operation was strictly banned by the Old Testament. In early 1980’s, tattooing started to get a renaissance. Since then many lost arts were retrieved by Polynesians. But due to the difficulty in sterilizing the traditional tools, the Ministry of Health banned tattooing in French Polynesia in 1986.
Although many years passed, tools and techniques of Polynesian tattooing have changed little. For a strictly traditional design, the skill gets handed from father to son, or master to disciple. Each tattoo artist, or tufuga, learned the craft over many years of serving as his master’s apprentice. They vertically passed their knowledge and rarely spread it widely because of its sacred nature.

Tattoo’s role in Polynesian Culture
Tattoo was a way delivering information of its owner. It’s also a traditional method to fetch spiritual power, protection and strength. The Polynesians use this as a sign of character, position and levels in a hierarchy. Polynesian peoples believe that a person’s mana, their spiritual power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo. Almost every Polynesian got a tattoo in ancient times.

The Importance of Tattoo Masters
Polynesian tattoo master tattooingTattoo masters are the most crucial people because they bear the meaning of symbols and motifs in memory and know how to combine them to create a meaningful work of art to each person. For example, sea creatures are very common Polynesian symbols, like mantas, sharks, bonitos and sea urchins. Each of them has a meaning related to its inner nature and embodies the meaning by tattooing it on to the body. Polynesian tattoo masters can express varieties of meanings by combining different Polynesian symbols and motifs together.

The styles of ancient Polynesian Tattoo
A man with ancient Polynesian tattoo styles with single patterns repeating.Polynesian tattoo style can vary from island to island. It depends on the degree of evolution of various traditions from the original common tattoo designs, like Lapita, which is a former Pacific archeological culture. Ancient original styles mainly consist of some simple patterns, like straight lines, repeating on the body. These geometrical styles can be found in Hawaiian and Samoan tattoo traditions, or in tattoos from Fiji, Palau, Tonga, etc. Because the age is too far from nowadays, the meanings of these patterns are almost lost, or debatable. The most used styles nowadays, which instead consist of rounded patterns, are from Marquesas Island.
Today’s Polynesian tattoo styles are much more figurative. Click here to view plenty of Polynesian Tattoo Designs.

A Sacred Art
Tattooing is a sacred ceremony in Polynesian culture. The tattoos and their location on the body were determined by one’s genealogy, position within the society and personal achievements. According to the culture of Maori, all high-ranking Māori were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were seen as people with lowest social level.
On the basis of mythology, human learned the art of tattooing from the 2sons of the God of Creation Ta’aroa. Tattooing was operated by high trained shamans (tahua) in the religious ceremony, who was an expert in the meanings of the tattoo and skills of the art.
Before getting tattooed, a person should experience a long period of cleansing. During this period one would fast for a fixed length of time and abstaining from sexual intercourse or contact with women. The tattoo practice generally marked both rites of passage and important events in a person’s life. The addition of tattoos also made a warrior much more attractive to women.
3 samples of ancient Polynesian head tattoos showing ranks.Generally, the head was considered the most sacred part of the body, and because tattooing caused blood to run, the tattoo craftsmen, or “tohunga-ta-oko”, were very tapu persons. The full faced tattoo was very time consuming, and a skilled tattoo craftsman would carefully study a person’s bone structure before getting his art process start.

Tattooing Related to Women
Ancient Polynesian tattooing of womenGenerally, the women were not as extensively tattooed as the men. The position of tattoo on women’s body was limited to hand, arms, feet, ears and lips. One saying is that girls at the age of twelve would get tattooed on their right hands, and since when they were permitted to prepare the meals and join in the process of rubbing of dead bodies.

Tattoo History

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, the earliest known example tracing back to an Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border dated at approximately 5,200 years old. Humans have used tattoo designs as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and forms of punishment.

Tattoos in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, tattoos seemed to be exclusively a female practice. It had been assumed that they were marks of prostitutes, or meant to protect women against sexually transmitted diseases. Nevertheless, female mummies with tattoos had been buried in an area associated with royal and elite burials.

Joann Fletcher of the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain says that she believes the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and served as a permanent form of amulet during pregnancy or birth. The spots on the body where these tattoos are located supports the idea since they were largely found around the abdomen and on top of the thighs and breasts. The design of the tattoos found, some being a net-like distribution of dots applied over the abdomen. Throughout pregnancy, these dots would expand in what was considered a protective manner. Sometimes, a tattoo of the household deity Bes is found at the tops of their thighs suggesting that it served as a means of safeguarding the actual birth, since Bes was the protector of women in labor.

Though there is not any written evidence, it is assumed that the older women of a community would design and apply the tattoos for the younger women using an implement best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle.

Most tattoo examples on mummies are dotted patterns of lines and diamond patterns. A dark or black pigment, like soot for example, is applied to the pricked skin. Brighter colors were used in other ancient cultures.

Tattoos in other ancient cultures

Among the Greek and Romans, tattoos were used to mark someone as belonging to a certain religious sect, or as the owner of slaves. Tattoos were even used as a form of punishment to mark criminals. When a dynasty of Macedonian Greek monarchs riles Egypt, the pharaoh Ptolemy IV (221-205 B.C.) evidently had been tattooed with ivy leaves to symbolize his devotion to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The tattoo fashion was then taken up by Roman soldiers and utilized across the Roman Empire until the spread of Christianity, when tattoos were banned by the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 306-373).

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Tattoos

The Ancient and Mysterious History

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The tattooed right hand of a Chiribaya mummy
The tattooed right hand of a Chiribaya mummy is displayed at El Algarrobal Museum, near the port of Ilo in southern Peru. The Chiribaya were farmers who lived from A.D. 900 to 1350. (Joann Fletcher)
By Cate Lineberry
SMITHSONIAN.COM
JANUARY 1, 2007
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Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous ” Iceman,” a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.

What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.

Can you describe the tattoos on the Iceman and their significance?

Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic. This would also explain their somewhat ‘random’ distribution in areas of the body which would not have been that easy to display had they been applied as a form of status marker.

What is the evidence that ancient Egyptians had tattoos?

There’s certainly evidence that women had tattoos on their bodies and limbs from figurines c. 4000-3500 B.C. to occasional female figures represented in tomb scenes c. 1200 B.C. and in figurine form c. 1300 B.C., all with tattoos on their thighs. Also small bronze implements identified as tattooing tools were discovered at the town site of Gurob in northern Egypt and dated to c. 1450 B.C. And then, of course, there are the mummies with tattoos, from the three women already mentioned and dated to c. 2000 B.C. to several later examples of female mummies with these forms of permanent marks found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim.

What function did these tattoos serve? Who got them and why?

Because this seemed to be an exclusively female practice in ancient Egypt, mummies found with tattoos were usually dismissed by the (male) excavators who seemed to assume the women were of “dubious status,” described in some cases as “dancing girls.” The female mummies had nevertheless been buried at Deir el-Bahari (opposite modern Luxor) in an area associated with royal and elite burials, and we know that at least one of the women described as “probably a royal concubine” was actually a high-status priestess named Amunet, as revealed by her funerary inscriptions.

And although it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases, I personally believe that the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth. This is supported by the pattern of distribution, largely around the abdomen, on top of the thighs and the breasts, and would also explain the specific types of designs, in particular the net-like distribution of dots applied over the abdomen. During pregnancy, this specific pattern would expand in a protective fashion in the same way bead nets were placed over wrapped mummies to protect them and “keep everything in.” The placing of small figures of the household deity Bes at the tops of their thighs would again suggest the use of tattoos as a means of safeguarding the actual birth, since Bes was the protector of women in labor, and his position at the tops of the thighs a suitable location. This would ultimately explain tattoos as a purely female custom.

Who made the tattoos?

Although we have no explicit written evidence in the case of ancient Egypt, it may well be that the older women of a community would create the tattoos for the younger women, as happened in 19th-century Egypt and happens in some parts of the world today.

What instruments did they use?

It is possible that an implement best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle, dated to c. 3000 B.C. and discovered by archaeologist W.M.F. Petrie at the site of Abydos may have been used to create tattoos. Petrie also found the aforementioned set of small bronze instruments c. 1450 B.C.—resembling wide, flattened needles—at the ancient town site of Gurob. If tied together in a bunch, they would provide repeated patterns of multiple dots.

These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, “the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in…. It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”

What did these tattoos look like?

Most examples on mummies are largely dotted patterns of lines and diamond patterns, while figurines sometimes feature more naturalistic images. The tattoos occasionally found in tomb scenes and on small female figurines which form part of cosmetic items also have small figures of the dwarf god Bes on the thigh area.

What were they made of? How many colors were used?

Usually a dark or black pigment such as soot was introduced into the pricked skin. It seems that brighter colors were largely used in other ancient cultures, such as the Inuit who are believed to have used a yellow color along with the more usual darker pigments.

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This mummified head of a woman from the pre-Inca Chiribaya culture, located at the Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile, is adorned with facial tattoos on her lower left cheek. (Joann Fletcher)
What has surprised you the most about ancient Egyptian tattooing?

That it appears to have been restricted to women during the purely dynastic period, i.e. pre-332 B.C. Also the way in which some of the designs can be seen to be very well placed, once it is accepted they were used as a means of safeguarding women during pregnancy and birth.

Can you describe the tattoos used in other ancient cultures and how they differ?

Among the numerous ancient cultures who appear to have used tattooing as a permanent form of body adornment, the Nubians to the south of Egypt are known to have used tattoos. The mummified remains of women of the indigenous C-group culture found in cemeteries near Kubban c. 2000-15000 B.C. were found to have blue tattoos, which in at least one case featured the same arrangement of dots across the abdomen noted on the aforementioned female mummies from Deir el-Bahari. The ancient Egyptians also represented the male leaders of the Libyan neighbors c. 1300-1100 B.C. with clear, rather geometrical tattoo marks on their arms and legs and portrayed them in Egyptian tomb, temple and palace scenes.

The Scythian Pazyryk of the Altai Mountain region were another ancient culture which employed tattoos. In 1948, the 2,400 year old body of a Scythian male was discovered preserved in ice in Siberia, his limbs and torso covered in ornate tattoos of mythical animals. Then, in 1993, a woman with tattoos, again of mythical creatures on her shoulders, wrists and thumb and of similar date, was found in a tomb in Altai. The practice is also confirmed by the Greek writer Herodotus c. 450 B.C., who stated that amongst the Scythians and Thracians “tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.”

Accounts of the ancient Britons likewise suggest they too were tattooed as a mark of high status, and with “divers shapes of beasts” tattooed on their bodies, the Romans named one northern tribe “Picti,” literally “the painted people.”

Yet amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos or “stigmata” as they were then called, seems to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as “belonging” either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals. It is therefore quite intriguing that during Ptolemaic times when a dynasty of Macedonian Greek monarchs ruled Egypt, the pharaoh himself, Ptolemy IV (221-205 B.C.), was said to have been tattooed with ivy leaves to symbolize his devotion to Dionysus, Greek god of wine and the patron deity of the royal house at that time. The fashion was also adopted by Roman soldiers and spread across the Roman Empire until the emergence of Christianity, when tattoos were felt to “disfigure that made in God’s image” and so were banned by the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 306-373).

We have also examined tattoos on mummified remains of some of the ancient pre-Columbian cultures of Peru and Chile, which often replicate the same highly ornate images of stylized animals and a wide variety of symbols found in their textile and pottery designs. One stunning female figurine of the Naszca culture has what appears to be a huge tattoo right around her lower torso, stretching across her abdomen and extending down to her genitalia and, presumably, once again alluding to the regions associated with birth. Then on the mummified remains which have survived, the tattoos were noted on torsos, limbs, hands, the fingers and thumbs, and sometimes facial tattooing was practiced.

With extensive facial and body tattooing used among Native Americans, such as the Cree, the mummified bodies of a group of six Greenland Inuit women c. A.D. 1475 also revealed evidence for facial tattooing. Infrared examination revealed that five of the women had been tattooed in a line extending over the eyebrows, along the cheeks and in some cases with a series of lines on the chin. Another tattooed female mummy, dated 1,000 years earlier, was also found on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, her tattoos of dots, lines and hearts confined to the arms and hands.

Evidence for tattooing is also found amongst some of the ancient mummies found in China’s Taklamakan Desert c. 1200 B.C., although during the later Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 220), it seems that only criminals were tattooed.

Japanese men began adorning their bodies with elaborate tattoos in the late A.D. 3rd century.

The elaborate tattoos of the Polynesian cultures are thought to have developed over millennia, featuring highly elaborate geometric designs, which in many cases can cover the whole body. Following James Cook’s British expedition to Tahiti in 1769, the islanders’ term “tatatau” or “tattau,” meaning to hit or strike, gave the west our modern term “tattoo.” The marks then became fashionable among Europeans, particularly so in the case of men such as sailors and coal-miners, with both professions which carried serious risks and presumably explaining the almost amulet-like use of anchors or miner’s lamp tattoos on the men’s forearms.

What about modern tattoos outside of the western world?

Modern Japanese tattoos are real works of art, with many modern practioners, while the highly skilled tattooists of Samoa continue to create their art as it was carried out in ancient times, prior to the invention of modern tattooing equipment. Various cultures throughout Africa also employ tattoos, including the fine dots on the faces of Berber women in Algeria, the elaborate facial tattoos of Wodabe men in Niger and the small crosses on the inner forearms which mark Egypt’s Christian Copts.

What do Maori facial designs represent?

In the Maori culture of New Zealand, the head was considered the most important part of the body, with the face embellished by incredibly elaborate tattoos or ‘moko,’ which were regarded as marks of high status. Each tattoo design was unique to that individual and since it conveyed specific information about their status, rank, ancestry and abilities, it has accurately been described as a form of id card or passport, a kind of aesthetic bar code for the face. After sharp bone chisels were used to cut the designs into the skin, a soot-based pigment would be tapped into the open wounds, which then healed over to seal in the design. With the tattoos of warriors given at various stages in their lives as a kind of rite of passage, the decorations were regarded as enhancing their features and making them more attractive to the opposite sex.

Although Maori women were also tattooed on their faces, the markings tended to be concentrated around the nose and lips. Although Christian missionaries tried to stop the procedure, the women maintained that tattoos around their mouths and chins prevented the skin becoming wrinkled and kept them young; the practice was apparently continued as recently as the 1970s.

Why do you think so many cultures have marked the human body and did their practices influence one another?

In many cases, it seems to have sprung up independently as a permanent way to place protective or therapeutic symbols upon the body, then as a means of marking people out into appropriate social, political or religious groups, or simply as a form of self-expression or fashion statement.

Yet, as in so many other areas of adornment, there was of course cross-cultural influences, such as those which existed between the Egyptians and Nubians, the Thracians and Greeks and the many cultures encountered by Roman soldiers during the expansion of the Roman Empire in the final centuries B.C. and the first centuries A.D. And, certainly, Polynesian culture is thought to have influenced Maori tattoos.

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A Brief History of Tattoos

Tattoo You

The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian “tatu” which means “to mark something.”

It is arguably claimed that tattooing has existed since 12,000 years BC. The purpose of tattooing has varies from culture to culture and its place on the time line. But there are commonalties that prevail form the earliest known tattoos to those being done on college students on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.

Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition. In Borneo, women tattooed their symbols on their forearm indicating their particular skill. If a woman wore a symbol indicating she was a skilled weaver, her status as prime marriageable material was increased. Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were believed to ward away illness. Throughout history tattoos have signified membership in a clan or society. Even today groups like the Hells Angels tattoo their particular group symbol. TV and movies have used the idea of a tattoo indication membership in a secret society numerous times. It has been believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. The ferocity of a tiger would belong to the tattooed person. That tradition holds true today shown by the proliferation of images of tigers, snakes, and bird of prey.

In recorded history, the earliest tattoos can be found in Egypt during the time of the construction of the great pyramids (It undoubtedly started much earlier). When the Egyptians expanded their empire, the art of tattooing spread as well. The civilizations of Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia picked up and expanded the art form. Around 2000 BC tattooing spread to China.

The Greeks used tattooing for communication among spies. Markings identified the spies and showed their rank. Romans marked criminals and slaves. This practice is still carried on today. The Ainu people of western Asia used tattooing to show social status. Girls coming of age were marked to announce their place in society, as were the married women. The Ainu are noted for introducing tattoos to Japan where it developed into a religious and ceremonial rite. In Borneo, women were the tattooists. It was a cultural tradition. They produced designs indicating the owners station in life and the tribe he belonged to. Kayan women had delicate arm tattoos which looked like lacy gloves. Dayak warriors who had “taken a head” had tattoos on their hands. The tattoos garnered respect and assured the owners status for life. Polynesians developed tattoos to mark tribal communities, families, and rank. They brought their art to New Zealand and developed a facial style of tattooing called Moko which is still being used today. There is evidence that the Mayan, Incas, and Aztecs used tattooing in the rituals. Even the isolated tribes in Alaska practiced tattooing, their style indicating it was learned from the Ainu.

In the west, early Britons used tattoos in ceremonies. The Danes, Norse, and Saxons tattooed family crests (a tradition still practiced today). In 787 AD, Pope Hadrian banned tattooing. It still thrived in Britain until the Norman Invasion of 1066. The Normans disdained tattooing. It disappeared from Western culture from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

While tattooing diminished in the west, it thrived in Japan. At first, tattoos were used to mark criminals. First offenses were marked with a line across the forehead. A second crime was marked by adding an arch. A third offense was marked by another line. Together these marks formed the Japanese character for “dog”. It appears this was the original “Three strikes your out” law. In time, the Japanese escalated the tattoo to an aesthetic art form. The Japanese body suit originated around 1700 as a reaction to strict laws concerning conspicuous consumption. Only royalty were allowed to wear ornate clothing. As a result of this, the middle class adorned themselves with elaborate full body tattoos. A highly tattooed person wearing only a loin cloth was considered well dressed, but only in the privacy of their own home.

William Dampher is responsible for re-introducing tattooing to the west. He was a sailor and explorer who traveled the South Seas. In 1691 he brought to London a heavily tattooed Polynesian named Prince Giolo, Known as the Painted Prince. He was put on exhibition , a money making attraction, and became the rage of London. It had been 600 years since tattoos had been seen in Europe and it would be another 100 years before tattooing would make it mark in the West.

In the late 1700s, Captain Cook made several trips to the South Pacific. The people of London welcomed his stories and were anxious to see the art and artifacts he brought back. Returning form one of this trips, he brought a heavily tattooed Polynesian named Omai. He was a sensation in London. Soon, the upper- class were getting small tattoos in discreet places. For a short time tattooing became a fad.

What kept tattooing from becoming more widespread was its slow and painstaking procedure. Each puncture of the skin was done by hand the ink was applied. In 1891, Samuel O’Rtiely patented the first electric tattooing machine. It was based on Edison’s electric pen which punctured paper with a needle point. The basic design with moving coils, a tube and a needle bar, are the components of today’s tattoo gun. The electric tattoo machine allowed anyone to obtain a reasonably priced, and readily available tattoo. As the average person could easily get a tattoo, the upper classes turned away from it.

By the turn of the century, tattooing had lost a great deal of credibility. Tattooists worked the sleazier sections of town. Heavily tattooed people traveled with circuses and “freak Shows.” Betty Brodbent traveled with Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1930s and was a star attraction for years.

The cultural view of tattooing was so poor for most of the century that tattooing went underground. Few were accepted into the secret society of artists and there were no schools to study the craft. There were no magazines or associations. Tattoo suppliers rarely advertised their products. One had to learn through the scuttlebutt where to go and who to see for quality tattoos.

The birthplace of the American style tattoo was Chatham Square in New York City. At the turn of the century it was a seaport and entertainment center attracting working-class people with money. Samuel O’Riely cam from Boston and set up shop there. He took on an apprentice named Charlie Wagner. After O’Reily’s death in 1908, Wagner opened a supply business with Lew Alberts. Alberts had trained as a wallpaper designer and he transferred those skills to the design of tattoos. He is noted for redesigning a large portion of early tattoo flash art.

While tattooing was declining in popularity across the country, in Chatham Square in flourished. Husbands tattooed their wives with examples of their best work. They played the role of walking advertisements for their husbands’ work. At this time, cosmetic tattooing became popular, blush for cheeks, coloured lips, and eyeliner. With world war I, the flash art images changed to those of bravery and wartime icons.

In the 1920s, with prohibition and then the depression, Chathma Square lost its appeal. The center for tattoo art moved to Coney Island. Across the country, tattooists opened shops in areas that would support them, namely cities with military bases close by, particularly naval bases. Tattoos were know as travel markers. You could tell where a person had been by their tattoos.

After world war II, tattoos became further denigrated by their associations with Marlon Brando type bikers and Juvenile delinquents. Tattooing had little respect in American culture. Then, in 1961 there was an outbreak of hepatitis and tattooing was sent reeling on its heels.

Though most tattoo shops had sterilization machines, few used them. Newspapers reported stories of blood poisoning, hepatitis, and other diseases. The general population held tattoo parlors in disrepute. At first, the New York City government gave the tattoos an opportunity to form an association and self- regulate, but tattooists are independent and they were not able to organize themselves. A health code violation went into effect and the tattoo shops at Times Square and Coney Island were shut down. For a time, it was difficult to get a tattoo in New York. It was illegal and tattoos had a terrible reputation. Few people wanted a tattoo. The better shops moved to Philadelphia and New Jersey where it was still legal.

In the late 1960s, the attitude towards tattooing changed. Much credit can be given to Lyle Tuttle. He is a handsome, charming, interesting and knows how to use the media. He tattooed celebrities, particularly women. Magazines and television went to Lyle to get information about this ancient art form.

Toady, tattooing is making a strong comeback. It is more popular and accepted than it has ever been. All classes of people seek the best tattoo artists. This rise in popularity has placed tattoists in the category of “fine artist”. The tattooist has garnered a respect not seen for over 100 years. Current artists combine the tr5adition of tattooing with their personal style creating unique and phenomenal body art. With the addition of new inks, tattooing has certainly reached a new plateau.

Tattoo You

If you have any interesting tidbits to add to this history, please e-mail it.

You Can Create Your Our Tattoo Style

 

You Can Create Your Our Tattoo Style

 

Hi, I’m David Carter, i’m professional tattoo maker for over 6 years, i remember when i created my first tattoo design, it was very good experience, actually it was just combination of other tattoos but it was really cool. nowadays you can find lot of tattoo ideas in the internet and then create your own with them, but it is really hard to find good tattoo ideas, actually most of them are very common and they can’t help you to create unique tattoo, for that we created community of tattoo lovers, here we have lot of unique tattoo ideas, you can find them on the internet, we have big community and help each other to being more creative, we all have one common thing, we all love tattoos, some of us are experts like me but others are just beginners, probably you are on of them, we will be happy if you will join us, you can find lot of unique tattoo ideas, create your own ones, take advice from experts like me and just share your opinion with us, we are just tattoo lovers like you, we are very happy every time when we see new member in our community, you can take a look at our blog that we created for people like you, you can choose some of tattoo ideas here, but if you want to find more tattoo ideas and get everyday updates you must join us, we are working everyday to make it easier for our users to feel comfortable with us

 

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That’s how i found Best Tattoo Ideas

 

That’s how i found Best Tattoo Ideas

 

Hello to my blog, my name is Linda and i’m 22 years old. I think you are looking for good tattoo ideas and tired searching in google and see some crappy images of tattoos. exactly same happened to me when i first started to search for tattoo ideas, all of images i found was same, it was very bad feeling, i wanted to make tattoo on my neck but did not knew what type of tattoo to make. I make my first tattoo on my chest when i was 21 years old.

This is my first tattoo, i think it is very cool ^-^

chest

it was very cool but i wanted some cool tattoo on my neck, but google did not helped me to find good tattoo ideas, so i started using tattoo forums, i have asked people to help me, i was very happy when i got some replies, most of them suggested me tattoomenow, first i was afraid that i can’t find my tattoo idea on this website, but when i looked closely i saw some good images, also i’ve read that they have tattoo artist and i can contact them to any time, also they have big online tattoo community for their users, price for all this things was very cheap, now they are even cheaper because they have discount, also they have money back guarantee, so i purchased it. After 3 days i went to my tattoo artist and made tattoo on my neck.

i think it is very simple and beautiful tattoo

tatooimade

maybe if i have not found that awesome people this amazing tattoo were not be on my neck, i hope this post will help you to find best tattoo ideas for you, i hope you will join our online tattoo community, thank you for reading my article.