Chinese Tattoo Culture
Tattoo is called 'Wen2 Shen1' in Chinese (see it). It literally means 'sting pattern on the body' or 'pattern on the body'.
Tattoo has a long history in China. Chinese tattoo probably originated from a punishment to prisoners in ancient China as Chinese characters tattooed on one's face. Whoever sees the tattoo will know he is a prisoner, so it is the symbol of a prisoner.
In old China, tattoo was often assocatied with factions. Each faction usually had a distinctive tattoo, such as a dragon, on the left arms of the members. But tattoo was also used to show one's character or personality. For example, some of the figures in Outlaws of the Marsh, one of the Chinese famous novels, have such tattoos.
The most famous Chinese tattoo is probably Yue Fei's tattoo, (Jing1 Zhong1 Bao4 Guo2), who was a famous general in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The tattoo literally means 'absolutely loyal and devoted to the motherland'. A well known story about the tattoo is that his mother had the tattoo done on his back to inspire and admonish him, but there are different stories about the tattoo. And there are also a few slightly different versions of the Chinese characters for the tattoo.
Tattoo is quite common among the Chinese minorities in China. For example, the Li girls had to have tattoos when they turned around 11, otherwise they would not be able to get married later. See a video clip here. But the custom is gone now.
With China's open up in recent years, tattoo has become popular again, especially among some of the young people. The tattoos are more artistic and colorful.
Tattoo is a personal thing. We neither encourage it, nor discourage it.
Tattoos / Body Piercings
Chinese characters are often used for tattoos. Karen Hudson has one of the best tattoo sites on the Net.