Arts & Entertainment

The women artists battling tattoo taboos in China

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, Sep 2 (EFE).- A phoenix rising from the ashes, a fish to bring good luck or perhaps an imposing mythological god — these are some of the most popular tattoos today in China, a country whose artists, including many women, say they still face social stigma.

Tattoos are an increasingly common sight in China’s modern urban hubs but the country holds onto their lingering associations with criminality or “uncivilized people,” says Xie Tingyin from her Beijing studio.

Xie specializes in a variety of styles, almost all inked in black and white, ranging from ancient Chinese legends, fables and deities to lions, birds and dragons.

“Other people want characters known for their exploits,” she adds, pointing to Italian customer Giorgio who chose to have Sun Wukong, known in English as the Monkey King, one of the main characters in the 16th century classic Journey to the West, tattooed on his upper arm.

China’s tattoo studios draw in all kinds of customers.

Dashuai, owner of HaloInkChina in Beijing, says what surprises her most was when clients come for a tattoo having first consulted with a fortune-teller, a superstition that is still prominent in Chinese society.

“They say that a tattoo can change a person’s destiny. I don’t believe that,” she says.

Xie, 31, started studying to become a tattoo artist a decade ago but had to teach herself given the challenges in finding affordable classes.

“A lot of my body is tattooed and now I wouldn’t be able to find another job in China, I wouldn’t be accepted,” she says, adding that she was proud that many Chinese women had chosen tattooing as a vocation.

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