Tattoo history

An in-depth history of tattooing

Presented by Charles Comber aka “Baby Handz”.


AKA – the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

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).

Etymology cont.

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.

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.

Yueh fei – Chinese Tattoos

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.”

Exile & organized crime- Chinese Tattoos

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.

Modern day style – Chinese Tattoos

China is one of the biggest countries in Asia continent. Not only this country is great in size or in population but Chinese people have a great heritage of art,  culture and spirituality. In ancient time they discovered many things that were invented or used by people of west much later. Chinese tattoos mainly involve interesting and illustrious Chinese language. Other indigenous elements of the Chinese culture and history are also found in tattoo art.  A man or woman, any body who loves and respects China and its culture can have a Chinese tattoo in the body. These tattoos also reflect strength, wisdom, magic and a sense of wonder.

Language – Chinese Tattoos

The Chinese language is the prime element of the Chinese tattoo style. Every tattoo artist has hundreds of interesting Chinese letter or phrase tattoo designs in his or her possession. All a tattoo lover is to do is to choose the right one that suits him or her, the size and placement.

Dragons – Chinese Tattoos

The Dragon is a revered creature in China. The Chinese people have many cultural elements followed by the dragon. A prime example is the Chinese dragon year. To them the dragon is a symbol of wisdom and magical power.

Great wall of china – Chinese Tattoos

The Great Wall Of China is one of the seven wonders of the world. There are some interesting tattoo designs that follow this great architecture. This represents China’s excellence in architecture and technology.

Terracotta army – Chinese Tattoos

The Terracotta Army is hundreds of ancient terracotta army puppets which were discovered in the grave of China’s first emperor in 1970s. This is one of the most wonderful archaeological evidences of Chinese history. Interesting tattoo designs show a number of terracotta soldiers or face of a single terracotta soldier.

Bruce lee – Chinese Tattoos

Bruce Lee is one of the most loving international figures of China.

In his short lifetime assumed legendary status in martial arts. He was a film star who was followed by millions of fans.

Bruce Lee tattoos are found around the world on proud collectors, usually placed on the arms, back or front part of the body.

Masks – Chinese Tattoos

Origin of Chinese masks is in shamanic rituals of the old. They were used for exorcisms and during the funeral rituals. Masks developed during the time and entered other parts of life and culture and today they have many uses from births to funerals.

They are used in dance performances, during celebrations, there are masks for newborns, masks made for protection against evil and theatrical masks. During ceremonies that are held as welcome celebrations of gods and spirits, groups of people wear “Sorcerer’s masks”.

These masks are also used in rituals that are held as prayers for better tomorrow and during funerary rites to help a soul rest peacefully. These masks originate from totemic worshiping of Yunnan and Guizhou. “Shamanic” masks are used in exorcisms and in funeral rituals of northern parts of China.

View The Video By Clicking This Link if the video does not automatically display below –