Tattoos make their mark on China

Updated: 2014-08-13 14:58

By Alison Sullivan (

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Tattoos make their mark on China

Jeanne Sun, tattoo artist and owner of Jeanne Tattoo Studio, works on a tattoo. Sun said for her, tattoos are meant to be a piece of art and not a simple image replicated from someone else’s tattoo. The 32-year-old gets to know customers before developing a tattoo unique to them. Provided to

Tattoos make their mark on China
Celebrity ink
Tattoos make their mark on China
Inked to compete
Tattoo experts say the art form is emerging in China, as a younger generation grows up separated from the stigma attached to the art form. One filmmaker is exploring tattoo culture in China through an online, self-produced web series.

For Jeanne Sun, like other Chinese youth, Western culture first exposed her to tattoos.

"We watched some music videos of bands from Europe and the United States. All the band members had tattoos and we said, 'We need a tattoo,'" said Sun, who played piano in a gothic rock band when she was 16.

The 32-year-old's petite frame is now covered in a collage of tattoos that flow across her back, up over her left shoulder, down her arm and spread across her leg. She owns Jeanne Tattoo Studio in Beijing's Gulou district.

Tattoos are growing in popularity and it's an industry that's rapidly expanding in China. Wang Qingyuan, also known as Kisen, said when he first launched the China Association of Tattoo Artists in 2002, there were 200 known artists in the country. Wang, the organization’s director, estimates there are now around 2,000 tattoo parlors and 400,000 tattoo artists in China.

Wang added the culture is developing so fast it's hard to predict exactly what the future holds for the tattoo industry.

Tattoos in China were once affiliated with criminals and more seedy members of society. While access to Western culture and celebrities with tattoos is attracting younger generations to the form of self-expression, China's older generations still turn up their noses.

Li Muzi, who works in marketing, said his parent's didn't approve when they found out he was going to get his first tattoo.

"However, as they learned more about tattoos, they learned to accept it," Li said.

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