One More Word About Tattoos

Monday July 31, 2017 Day 5


Back in 2004, I wrote an article titled, “A Word About Tattoos,” where I listed three reasons why we don’t recommend or provide Asian symbols for tattoos. At the time, my editor reminded me that tattoos exist in many forms and not all of them have negative associations. Some are medically necessary, like for scar camouflage and other cosmetic reasons. For example, some women have their eyebrows tattooed. Thus, to further clarify things, I want to let you know that my opinion is strictly about Asian symbol tattoos.


I learned two things from writing that post.


First, it seemed to me that it had little or no effect in changing people’s minds.


I did a survey at the end of the article that lasted for years, and found that 83.8% of the readers thought the article was informative, 9.8% thought not informative, and 6.4% didn’t know.


When I asked about how much they agree with the article, 31.9% highly agree, 19.1% agree, 37.3% somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, 5.9% disagree, and 5.9% highly disagree. More people agree or highly agree than not.


For me, two of the most telling questions and results were:


For those of you who don’t have tattoos, does this article make you more or less likely to want to have a tattoo? 69.9% said no difference, 4.4% more likely, and 25.7% less likely.


For those of you who have tattoos, does this article make you more or less likely to have a tattoo again? 83.1% said no difference, 10.2% more likely, and 6.8% less likely.


My survey is not scientific, but it seems to tell me that there was no effect in changing people’s opinions. People are mostly set in their views. Or maybe the findings of 25.7% and 6.8%, less likely, are actually good enough in terms of influence. What’s your take?


As I’m writing this, I thought to myself . . . How much have my views changed since then?


Second, the order of things can be perceived in dramatically different ways.


One of the reasons I listed was that many traditions advise against body modification, regarding the body as given by someone greater and as holy. At first, I wrote a verse from Leviticus 19:28 followed by a quote from Confucius from the Book of Filial Piety.


I couldn’t believe how many angry and hate emails I received regarding that Leviticus verse. My initial reaction was to remove it. But then I decided to quote Confucius first and then the Bible, reversing the order.


Guess what? No more hate emails. Zero. I would not have believed this if I had not tried it myself. Both verses are still there, but by rearranging them, the reaction was very different.


One More Reason for Not Getting That Tattoo


Last week, after talking to friends who visited public baths in Japan, I learned that many hot springs and public baths in Japan ban people with tattoos. Public bathing is not my thing, but if it’s yours, put off getting that tattoo until you experience the authentic onsen experience!


I’ll post my original article below because 81.9% of the survey respondents said Yes when asked, “Should we keep this article on our website to inform users about possible negatives from having tattoos of Asian symbols?”


A Word About Tattoos


Originally posted in 2004


We have seen so many unfortunate cases of people getting embarrassing permanent symbols on their bodies. We obviously have no control over how our characters will be used, but we strongly discourage customers from having them tattooed.


Please keep reading for issues related to tattooing Chinese symbols.


It’s very easy to get tattoo symbols from books or the Internet. Whether they are correct or appropriate is another question. We feel that people who sell tattoo art without providing the warnings at left are just out to make a quick buck and don't care about you.


Tattoos are almost always associated with gangs and criminal organizations in Asia. (Except: Most Famous Tattoo in China) This is not necessarily the case in America, where tattooing might be just trendy or “cool.” However, we suggest thinking twice before putting permanent foreign symbols on your skin. Why not wear your Chinese name on a t-shirt instead? It’s just as beautiful, and it comes off.


Why We Don’t Do Tattoos


1. Nonsense Chinese


What looks mystical and intelligent often has a nonsensical or embarrassing meaning. Probably neither the wearer nor the tattoo artist understand what the characters actually mean.


Because we love the Chinese language, we don’t wish to contribute to the language’s misuse for the sake of a fad. For people who don’t know Chinese, flaring the characters across an arm may appear elegant, exotic, or intriguing. Yet what looks mystical and intelligent often has a nonsensical or embarrassing meaning. Probably neither the wearer nor the tattoo artist understand what the characters actually mean.


NBA player Marcus Camby is a popular example of the rave of tattooing Chinese characters. Neither Chinese nor Japanese people could understand his tattoos, however, until Camby gained millions of dollar’s worth of publicity “explaining” what his tattoos are suppose to mean. Of course, the average Joe doesn’t have this kind of opportunity.


“But I’m not Chinese or Japanese. It just looks cool to me.”


An interesting article suggests for you to imagine the reverse situation: A tough Chinese man with schoolish handwriting scrawled across his large bicep that reads: SPILLED WATER DIFFICULT COLLECT. Is his clever skin modification intelligent? Sexy? Macho? It doesn’t even make sense. Picture Camby with that tattoo. Perhaps this helps you see what it is like for a Chinese person to read (much less contribute to) transliterated nonsense.


2. Wisdom on body modification


Many wisdom traditions advise against body modification, regarding the body as given by someone greater and as holy. These, of course, are traditions treasured by people who have not made rash decisions to dishonor their bodies in their youth. We cannot with a good conscience support what we consider to be a regrettable action.


“Our bodies, to every hair and bit of skin, are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them. This is the beginning of filial piety.”

Confucius, The Book of Filial Piety


“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:28, NKJV


3. Language changes, tattoos don’t


Even if one were to find a well-researched Chinese name or idiom one year and get it tattooed, the meaning may change the next year. The person would perhaps be stuck with an unwanted association. The characters for “Tong Chih” (Tong Zhi), for instance, used to convey the notion of comrade, people with the same goal, even party associates. It has since come to be used among gays. Certainly you want to know all the connotations of a word before marrying your skin to it, but unfortunately changes in connotations cannot be predicted.


Try These Instead


We suggest thinking twice before putting permanent foreign symbols on your skin. Why not wear your Chinese name on a t-shirt instead? Just as beautiful, and it comes off.




Do you agree with A Word About Tattoos? Please take a quick survey. You do not have to reveal your identity.


Survey Results


1. Is “A Word About Tattoos?” informative?


Yes 83.8%

No 9.8%

Don't know 6.4%


2. How much do you agree with “A Word About Tattoos?”


Highly Agree 31.9%

Agree 19.1%

Somewhat agree, somewhat disagree 37.3%

Disagree 5.9%

Highly Disagree 5.9%


3. Please explain if you can. We may update the article based on your feedback.


“Aside from the animal tattoos on my arms, I have the calligraphy for Qi, Water and Tao. The animals are both powerful and graceful, and the words have strong meaning for me.”


“People are generally stupid, and don’t really think about (or have the ability to process realistically or adequately) the ramifications of putting foreign (or any) characters on their bodies. If someone has never traveled, and/or has no ability to empathize from another cultural perspective, it seems inevitable that a quick ‘coolness’ factor will continue to drive this practice.”


“i did not like how you added in the part about religion and how your not suposed to get tattoos i for one am a athiest, that means that i do not believe in god, and especially the bible putting something like that makes me angry that every one assumes everyone else believes in the same god or one god.”


“I stumbled upon your site while looking for a gift for my wife who is Chinese. I thought a stamp bearing her name would be an awesome gift. Instead, I found a lecture on the evils of tattooing. 'A Word About Tattoos' is uninformative at best and is obviously self-serving. You don't sell tattoo art. and a simple statement of 'We don't sell tattoo art' would have sufficed. Why do you feel the need to expand on this statement. You even include verses from the bible! What is wrong with you people. Let the clergy interpret the bible... you guys should stick to selling asian characters. You just lost a sale.”


“I was plesantly surprised to see your article about tattoos. I don't believe I have ever run across an article on a website like this discouraging tattoos. It was very refreshing.”


“I love language and linguistics. I find it fascinating that the Chinese language can express such complex ideas in beautiful symbols rather than detailed explanations. I wanted to get a small tattoo that captured my love for the language and said something personal about me. I still think I would like it, but I don't want to risk offending any native speakers who may view my tattoo as only following a fad. I don't consider tattoos as tainting a person's body if they are discreet and meaningful. I wanted one as a special reminder of something that was important to me that was also aesthetically pleasing.”


“As a non-Asian student of Chinese culture and language, I am embarrassed to see people with Chinese symbols tattooed on their bodies only because they ‘look cool’. They have no respect for the chinese culture.”


“I believe you should not put anything on your body that is harder to remove than a T-shirt.”


“I saw one of my brother’s friends with a chinese tatoo on his arm. I asked to see it, as I can read a fair number of characters, and he had no idea what it said. I looked at it and was confused for a moment, as I could not make sense of it — then I realized the characters were tattooed inversely (that is, they were the mirror image of the proper characters). I feel this more than illustrates your warning about westerners ignorant of the language getting chinese tatoos. and the world doesn’t need another fool with ‘dragon’ or ‘love’ tatooed on them.


But another of my brother’s friends wanted a phrase that suggested loss and the temporality of phenomena (he had just gone through a bad break up). he didn’t want anyone else to understand the tatoo’s significance, so we consulted a chinese friend, and got him the idiom ‘guo wang yun yan’ (gone the way of the clouds and smoke), and the tattoo is correct and well rendered.”


“I almost completely agree with the article. But I am still mindful of the aesthetic qualities of glyphs and letterforms themselves - independent of their meaning. Perhaps an inscription that makes no sense would be preferable, from an aesthetic point of view, over one which might express some unwanted sentiment. That being said, I do feel that the ideal would be an aesthetically interesting *and* meaningful inscription.”


“did answer no but really would have said yes and no, yes is informative but would also be good to offer the alternative methods to have temporary tattoos and information on this. Recently i have used the henna which i know can not be safe for everyone but it was for me a safe and non permament alternative to achieve the look but not have it for the rest of my life.”


“I didn’t understand the part about chinese symbols changing. Are they not a constant/always have the same meaning?”


“I agree with your basic stance on the matter but dont think its really a religous matter. No matter what you tatto on your body you should think long and hard before you do. I have the characters in Korean for Moo Duk Kwan and have had it for over 15 years and never had any regrets. P.S. have had several korean store owners read the charaters with ease and fully understand their meaning. I do agree that the characters should be researched by a reputable source.”


“agreed that language changes and embarrassment may ensue...disagree somewhat as it is all a matter of personal choice. Good caveat, though.”


“I can understand the points you have made but I simply want to have my children’s names symbolised in the beautiful chinese writing. It is just my way of marking my children’s name in my own personal way.”


“It would be helpful if you could suggest how to get the closest translation possible. Suggesting that people get things on a t-shirt instead of a tattoo seems a little lame to me. I want a tattoo that says Brandon Lee in Chinese, this is because I have great admiration for Brandon and feel a certain closeness to him even though he is no longer with us. I wouldnt want to walk around with his name in Chinese symbols on a t-shirt, not really the same level of dedication and respect is it?”


“This article is awsome. Your website is one of the first I’ve seen that discourages tattos. Keep up the good work mate!”


“I wouldn’t get a tatoo anyhow, but I thought your info was humorous.”


“Wisdom is rarely found, and perhaps rarely sought, by those who are interested in body modifications; the wisdom of your advice is very clear and plainly stated so that anyone may understand it”


“Agree. I find badly-drawn or incorrect characters tattooed on people offensive.”


“I think getting a tattoo is not a means of wounding or injuring the body. A quote like that can be taken many ways. I believe it was intended to presume intentional harmful acts as a means of personal punishment should not be commited. There are numerous religions that encourage tattoos to prove faith. I am not aware of leviticus, but I have to imagine that one man speaking on behalf of The Lord requires more credibility. I was also not aware the word tattoo dates back to the time of Christ. What if my tattoo said in plain english ‘I love God’, or ‘love & Gratitude’. I can’t see how these go against God’s will. I agree tattoos can create regretful experiences. I have to believe if I got a tattoo now I would have no idea how I would feel about it in 10 years. You have a great site though, it really made me think twice. You should provide more info to prove your point. It's not convincing enough. Thanks.”


“It offers good advice about getting a chinese tattoo however the part about it being perhaps ‘unethical’ or disrespectful to our parents is abit opinionated to me.”


“it has a point but i think the people that are knocking getting tattoos and saying its a trend or cool thing then thats your opinion keep it to yourself after all if its not your body then you have not right to worry about it and please try to keep an open mind about it cause every tattoo means something to the person its on.”


“tattoos are memories. Even if the meaning of the symbol changes you can still say and remember what it meant when you got it done.”


“Tattoos are permenant, and the decision to have one and what it will be should be well thought out.”


“Tattoos are almost always unsightly.”


“While i have wanted to get chinese words tattooed I haven’t because I don’t speak, read or write the language. And I don’t want to get stuck with something then find out it doesn’t mean what I thought it did.”


“I have the symbol for playing a musical instrument on my body, and it has been identified as such by many Chinese and Japanese people.”


“Tattoos are suspiciously easy to attain. In essence - if you can (feel/be) different because of something painfully needled into you, then you and I differ.”


“Your cautious approach to tattooing Chinese characters is certainly warranted. But you seem to have a strong anti-tattoo bias in general, and also obviously have a vested interest in convincing people to buy your apparel as an alternative to tattoos. My feeling is that it is simply foolish for people to walk into a tattoo shop and pick a Hanzi phrase from a book of tattoo art. But it is another story altogether if a person has a sincere interest in Chinese characters and culture and picks the phrase out by themselves.”


“At the end of the day, its your body, you decide what to do with it, the fact im considering a chinese tattoo is showing my love for the country.”


“It would be hard to disagree seeing as how I myself have tattooed Chinese Characters on my body. And while I worry that they do not mean what I intended them to, my intentions were pure.”


“I'm an artist and appreciate the true tattoo artists, not the ones that hang around the beach. I believe, tastefully done, it can be very revealing AND mysterious. I do believe that there are people who become tattoo addicts (as well as piercing addicts). Most of all I believe that a tattoo should be very carefully thought out, design perfected on paper first, done by an extremely reputable artist who complies to all health standards. Another important thing to consider before tattooing is your own health. Are you sick? Have immune problems? Possibly allergic to certain ink dies?”


“i believe that body art is beautiful. i think it is disrespectful to get a tattoo.”


“Again, it comes back to each person's view. I know that my body was given to me by something greater and it is to this greatness that it will be returned when the time is right. In the meantime, should I modify it and, in turn, bring it happiness, I can't see any reason why I should be ashamed or regretful.”


“There is no sense passing judgement on these people. I wouldn’t do a Hanzi/Kanji pattern myself, but if someone wanted a particularly moving passage from the Matsuo Basho collection or something, it’d be nice if they could get the characters right. For example, I speak Japanese, but can’t read it - I might hear something in recitation, but not be able to read the text for myself.”


“I think tattoos are ridiculous, and tattoos in a language you can’t read are even more ridiculous. Plus, what happens when you get older and your skin starts to sag.”


April 2005


“It is my opinion that most westerners get tatoos for the benefit of others, not themselves. They simply seek attention or a means of alerting others of their uniqueness, beliefs, or higher level of enlightenment (as evidenced by their dragon or yin and yang tatoo). In ancient times, tatoos and body modifications were earned and then bestowed by a respected member of society. Today, tatoos are shallow fashion accessories instantly converting suburbanites into Maori warriors and Mui Thai masters. I do not feel compelled to display for others my beliefs, my travels, my achievements, my loves, and my inspirations as they are mine alone and shared only with those who inquire. I would not presume that others care whether I am a Marine or a father or a son or a Catholic. I know who I am and those I care about know as well.”


“Very interesting article, but may be too ‘intelligently’ written for people blinded by the ‘exoticness’ of Chinese/Japanese characters. Maybe add something explaining their options further (if you want 'strength' as a tattoo, why not get it in English in an interesting calligraphy? That way it’s interesting, you know what it says for sure, and you’re not insulting 2 billion or so people.)”


“my body is the temple of god no right to put any thing on it”


“I agree that research should be made before getting a tattoo of any culture. Firstly not to insult that foreign to you and secondly not to look like a fool by not even knowing what your tattoo is about. But that is not by any means reason enough to stop someone from getting a tattoo. It's something very personal and the really important thing is what it means to the one bearing it and not what it means based on social standards.”


“There is so many interpretations of ‘asian’ symbol languages that a Westerner without a background in that language could truly have a ‘bad’ symbol put on their body in error. A warning is very responsible on your part.”


“Tattooing is a sacred and spiritual art that is the choice of the person. No persons’ body belongs to anyone but themselves, regardless of the differing views of many of the worlds religion. In fact, most truly rich world religions/cultures (I don’t mean the most popular per capita) include tattooing as a ceremonial right of passage. No one person or religion has a right to dictate whether or not this form of self expression is moral or not. It is a truly enlightened man who realizes that a man’s beliefs are his own and not for us to judge! I have 2 tattoos by the way and plan on more to mark poignant moments on my life journey.”


“Having tattoos done in a language you don’t understand is a ridiculous affectation. Who’s benefit is it for?”


May 2005


“It’s good that people think carefully before getting tattoos. At the very least they should be sure that their tattoos don’t say anything stupid or profane.”


“I think it’s a stupid shallow fad. I understand Japanese and seeing a car with the hiragana ‘no’ in no context across the street from where I live is embarassing.”


“The article concisely explains the power of language in context, rather than excerpted bits of language out of context.”


“It is absolutely correct. People who do not understand foreign languages or symbols, especially chinese characters should not foolishly brand themselves with what they do not understand.”


“When I was getting my tattoo, a couple came in with a printout from some translation site of what they thought said, ‘I love ___.’ Had the tattoo artist not had any scruples, the recipient would have wound up with the Chinese equivalent of, ‘I love eggs’ on his skin for the rest of his life. Fortunately for our dim-witted couple the tattoo artist declined to apply the tattoo.


People, please think before getting a Chinese tattoo. Just because it ‘looks pretty’ or you think it has some mystical or esoteric meaning doesn’t mean that every Chinese speaking person isn’t going to laugh at you for having a pointless word in a stylized (most Chinese compare these fonts to a child’s writing) font emblazoned on your skin. Unless, of course, you want to be laughed at by potentially over one billion people…”


“I think the ‘Nonsense’ article hits the matter straight on (and should perhaps be featured on the main ‘Tattos’ page): Rather than coming off as angry Asians forbidding individuals to sport tattoos with foreign writings (that they don’t understand), it’s more realistic and caring to show them that our goals is simply to warn them against becoming laughing stock or to have the characters make an awkward first impression for them.”


June 2005


“Why would you do anything permanent to your body? Having a child is the most permanent thing I can think of that I would be willing to do.”


“I agree that many people put symbols on their bodies without considering what you have mentioned. I am looking to put my husbands name under a symbol which means eternity.”


“I feel as though if people want to get tattoo, go ahead... who cares what it will look like when your older?... you only live once. If you plan to have a career that sees a tattoo as somewhat inappropriate... be smart and choose to put it somewhere where it won’t be publically exposed.. it’s simple, really... and our generation (i’m 22) sees them as fun and a way to express yourself!!”


July 2005


“The article has good warnings against short-sighted feelgood consumerism. It makes people think where they otherwise wouldn’t. I don’t actually understand or appreciate what the atheist on one of the comments whines about. First, the Bible quotation is there to serve as an example, not to convert anynone. Were you to put quotes from 10 different wisdom traditions, it would still stand out and offend atheists. Who, by the way, reserve all rights to ‘evangelize’ people to their wonderful, flaunted non-believism.”


“To make myself and others probably agree more with the atrical ‘aword about tattoos’ you should probably give good resons for getting the tattoos also and possibly some examples.”


“I think the articles is very informative but tendencious. I think you should put all the warnings to people be aware of waht they are thinking to do but instead the article is trying to convince you of not having a tattoo at all.”


“I’m not to fond of the religous part in here and it seem very one side and unfair to state only one side. In may ethic and religous cultures there is tattoos and piercings. Thou I do agree do research first don’t just go and do it or it could be something you regret.”


“I have a chinese tattoo and the meaning has not changed yet.”


August 2005


“The persons likes or dislikes may change, it’s a risk anybody who is considering a tattoo should consider but they can always pay to have it removed.”


“I enjoy martial arts, chinese philosophy and chinese culture. I am familiar with the fact of yakusa being tattooed. Still interested in translation.”


“Getting permanent text that one can’t understand is just absurd as an idea to me.”


“You are right, once you tatoo, it can not be removed.”


September 2005


“I think it looks really stupid when someone with no connection to Chinese/Japanese culture has Chinese characters tattooed on themselves. It’s just silly. I’m glad you discourage that. I do, however, disagree with the assessment of tattoos in general being a disrepect to one’s body. Properly done, they can be quite meaningful and artistic. But yes--so annoying to see people with random characters tattooed on themselves.”


“Your article does not give any actual helpful feedback (resources or help sites etc.) it seems more geared towards wanting to stop the tattoos entirely rather than be helpful.”


“Would you tattoo that same word in Chinese/Japanese, whatever, in English in the same manner? Most likely not, or it would already be there.”


“I am continually amazed by people who get tattoos or even wear clothing that says something in a language they do not understand. It seems they are disrespecting both the other culture and themselves.”


“Yes please update it based on what people think of tattos. I hate them!!”


October 2005


“You seem to have a great understanding of your point of view, but I think you have only a limited understanding of mine. There is goodness in tattoo, goodness that eludes the author of ‘A Word About Tattoos’. There was tattoo before written language.”


“Think l have made a mistake, had a chinese tatto done trying to look up if it says what its meant to, but can't find where to look.”


“It is refreshing that you convey treating the only body you get with respect and reverence :)”


“I didn’t know that Chinese characters change so frequently.”


November 2005


“Have more info on why you SHOULD get a tatt.”


“I have always felt that tattooing and some forms of body modification are ‘not good’ now I have a way to express the feeling better. ‘Disrespectful’ is exactly how I feel.”


“For people who are Asian i know it is not uncommon to have your surname tattooed.”


“My boyfriend is in jail and wants me on his body.”


“They are common sense warnings.”


December 2005


“It does make sense. Why would the meaning of a character change?”


“I personally like tattoos but I don’t suffer fools gladly. To have something wrong/foolish/subject to change permanently marked into one cannot be a good idea.”


“It is insulting to see these characters tattooed on non-Asian people, especially if they are gibberish. This means the person is shallow and only following a fad, and does not care anything for the culture the characters come from.”


“Our bodies are beautiful creations from our parents and a gift from God. There is no need to alter our bodies unless it is a medical necessity and our health is at risk.”


4. Do you have tattoos on your body?


None. 46%

Yes. Arms. 22.6%

Yes. Back. 16.5%

Yes. Chest. 6.1%

Yes. On other parts of the body. 22.7%


5. For you who have no tattoos, does this article make you more or less likely to want to have a tattoo?


More likely 4.4%

Less likely 25.7%

No difference 69.9%


6. For you who have tattoos, does this article make you more or less likely to have a tattoo again?


More likely 10.2%

Less likely 6.8%

No difference 83.1%


7. If you have tattoos, what motivated you to get them?


“I am an artist and appreciate the beauty. As a martial artist they represent my beliefs. Although I hold the Chinese culture in high regard, this is America, and our culture should be respected as well. I do, however, that proper research should be done into meaning of any foreign symbol so as not to offend anyone or embarass oneself.”


“Personal interest.”


“Design, body art, uniqueness and expression of individuality and personality.”


“i like the way they look and i can express myself by using my body. i had always wanted tattoos growing up and i still continue to want more as i grow.”


“The birth of my son he is the most important thing in my life. and worth at least giving a small part of my body too.”


“no why just feel like”


“I wanted it.”


“Fascination meaning”


“i like them, and they have a special meaning to me”


“to be unique.”


“Have many no one answer pertains to them all. But as the old saying goes if your body is your temple whats wrong with decorating the walls of your temple. My Moo Duk Kwan tattoo is a constant reminder to dedicate my self tirelessly to my art.”




“I always wanted one even before they become ‘trendy’. Mine is situated in a very personal place (not for public viewing)”


“They are all of things that mean a lot to me and have changed my life in one way or another.”


“Because I wanted to express myself in a way that those around me could enjoy as well. I enjoy my art and want to keep it with me until I die.”


“They are personally meaningful to me and I consider them a way of beautifying my body. I don't find anything wrong with them morally and the subjects I choose to portray with my tattoos are not immoral. I believe that it helps me to spread the word about my faith and my other tattoo (a sunflower) keeps my loved ones on my mind even though they're gone.”


“Inspirational dreams.”


“They’re sexy. Getting a tattoo is a sexual experience for me…”


“pissing you off”


“i have kanji down my left arm and its for my daughters name and to let her know she is far from being forgot”


“Experience, fun, and a memorie of what kind of person I was when I got it done”


“Each tattoo has a deep-rooted personal meaning. I my body as a canvas worth painting on. Granted none of my tattoos are in areas that would affect my professional career, and as such cannot be seen when in dress-casual to professional attire.”


“I chose to get my tattoos because of a connection that I felt with the items I was having permanently drawn on my body. They express who I am, and help me to remain mindful of my personal ideals. They aren’t things that I flaunt, nor are they visible in the course of normal daily life -- they are more for myself than anyone else.”


“I went out with some friends and we all got tattood. I got them as a reminder of our friendship. So now when I see them I think of my friends. And I also got them for my self I have always liked tattoos”


“To showcase my pride in my body.”


“knew it would look good where it is, and unique to me as symbols where slightly modified (tang mu)”


“I wished to possess some certain characteristics. I chose characters that are a reminder that I do not always act with love, compassion, clarity, patience, peace and wisdom.”


“the beauty of them”




“I admit, it was a 'cool' thing at first. Luckily, I chose something that I still believe in 10 years later. I think they are beautiful.”


April 2005


“I have a tattoo of my husband’s name on my upper chest, which I got to commemorate the bond that we share, my commitment to him, etc. (The usual ‘lovey dovey’ tattoo story.) As he is Japanese and I am an ESL teacher in Japan (someone familiar with the language to a reasonable degree), we both felt it would be a little ridiculous to convert his name into romaji and have *that* inked onto my flesh, just for the sake of avoiding a kanji tattoo fad. While I don't regret having the tattoo done (the meaning behind it will always be the same for me, after all), I often find myself hesitant (dare I say embarrassed?) to expose it in public (particularly when visiting the states), as I am immediately lumped into a societal category of gaijin morons sporting tattoos in a language they know nothing about. I would encourage potential tattooees, specifically those seeking designs with Asian characters, to re-consider their motivations and possibly explore other options.”


“I have a persistent illness of unknown origin, and getting a tattoo made me feel in control of my body again. I plan on getting another one when/if I finally beat my disease.”


“love stupidity”


“It was something I wanted even as a child. I find tattooing an art of no mistakes which makes the artist even more responsible and therefore even more respectable. It’s a painting of your feelings and inner world with your body as the canvas.”


“I have a tattoo to mark a time in my life of great change and growth. I plan on having a few more tastefully well-hidden ones placed on me.”


“Art is beautiful no matter where you display it as long as it is important to and valued by you. I get a tattoo once a year and each one means something to me wether someone else likes it or not. This is my body and this is how I choose to display my thoughts or feelings. I am marking my body and not hurting or effecting anyone else. If you don't like what you see, then don’t look.”


“Tattoos are very personal and the motivation is not something that needs to be questionned.”


“i have a tattoo of something meaningful to me and it's at a place that is easily concealed (as I got it for me, no one else).”


May 2005


“I have a traditional native tattoo on my forearm. it’s part of my culture and my sister has one so i wanted to share that.”


“I wanted one for a long time, then got them when I was old enough.”


“My wife is Chinese. I had her name tattooed in Chinese on my arm. I already knew how to write her name in Chinese, and I researched various fonts to make sure it came out looking appropriate. I’m very happy with it, and she, although initially skeptical, has grown to like it.”


“I have always wanted a tattoo. When I got my 1st I was not a ‘youth’ I did wait until I was an adult and it was not a rash decision. I think they are sexy and a way to express yourself and your personality.”


June 2005


“Marraige Commitment”


“I feel that when this questino is asked, most people want to hear a sappy answer and they want the person to have a really good reason for getting the tattoo... like a death in the family, big accomplishment, etc. I’ll be truthful about why I got my tattoo, and I’m proud of it. I loved the way a small tattoo looked on the female lower back. It’s not in a very exposed area... only when you want it to be... I love it, I took the time to chose something that I really wanted... chose a great, clean artist, and I think it is fantastic!”


July 2005


“I do not have them, but I have a perspective I’ve developed, seeing a handful of people take tattoos. Like all body modifications, it gives one a simple way to define one’s personality and to remind oneself about one’s chosen or adopted personality. Even if that is just ‘being cool.’ I’ve heard (and this ought to be verified) that some indian warriors were tattooed by pictures of anything they hoped they would become like.”


“I was fifteen and I want to get a tattoo on the small of my back I waited 3yrs and it was a gremlin my nickname, one is my passion for frogs that ones on my ankle, and the other is for heritage Celtic knotwork done in woad blue.”




“All my friends have flowers or butterflys and i wanted to be different.”


August 2005


“My father has one and I liked his and it was of something that he liked to do, so I got one of something that I like.”


“Initially as a younger man in the US military it was a ‘right of passage’. Later it was for the art or symbolism.”


“Married and wanted matching tatoos.”


“hate life”


September 2005


“I love the expression part of having tattoos on my body i can imagine art in my image and work with artist o brings my ideas to life on my body for my personal pleasure.”


October 2005


“self expression & art”


“Love and Life.”


“l think they look nice, lf you pick the right ones.”


November 2005


“If I was to get a tatto it would to be a symbol of me. I would get the symbols of daughter, sister, mother, and woman and then my son's name.”


“I want it”




“A girlfriend and i went to lollapoluza the first year and were the first two to get tattoos the olny year palloza had real tattoo artist i gave myself other two first by the way is sun and ra is part of my name egyption sun god and secound i did was butterfly and thats after a demon tried to strangle me but i had to much light third tatto is a feather because im a freebird i believe tattoing and piercing is a no no in chinese but in my world i believe my house is my body my eyes are my windows and if i want to paint my home why not????”


“An important experience that I wanted to commemorate.”


December 2005


“My main tattoo (on my inside ankle - deliberate choice for low visibility) is a tribal marking from Morocco, where I spent many happy years. Done as deliberate life-long souvenir. My second tattoo (other ankle) was for silly fun and cannot be taken seriously.”


“I was young and stupid and wanted to look like a yakuza, which I then thought was cool in the way lots of teenage boys think gangsters are cool. Now, decades later, I am ashamed of my youthful stupidity and regret marring my body this way. But too bad, ne? I’m stuck with them ‘til death. It was my choice to get them, so I have to live with them, and with the shame of them.”




“To commemorate my life story.”


8. If you do not have tattoos, why not?


“i want to be sure for what i am going to have. i want my tattoo to express me, my thoughts and my character. i want it to be something special and unique…”


“I have never wanted a tattoo. I personally think they cheapen the way a person looks. I believe that the youth of today think it is ‘cool’ and the thing to do...a status symbol if you will. They also don't stop to think about what that tattoo will look like in 50 years. Gravity has a way with everything and tattoos are no exception!”


“I have considered getting one for four years but I want to be completely sure that the one I get is meaningful and will have signifigance throughout my life. This article does make me less likely to get a Chinese symbol at the risk of offending others.”


“In my opinion, they look cheap and are regarded in society as being low-class. They are also not very flattering to an aging body.”

“I could not change the tattoo as easily as I might change my feelings about having it.”

“I am not fascinated by body modification, nor do i belong to any subculture that encourages tatoos. but i would be interested in getting a tatoo of personal significance that is not visible to the general public. I haven't yet because of the very nature of tattoos being relatively permenant, the wrong choice is one to regret for a long time.”

“Saving money for it.”

“I personally do not like tattoos and find them somewhat…primitive.”

“Mostly gang members and bikers have tatoos in my area. Plus, they do not portray professionalism in business dealings.”

“just coz they can look good now but later on in life, ur body changes and ur appearance alters and then they dont look so good.”

“its a big decision! do I want them when i am 70? also they are very popular at the moment nice to be different in not having 1!”

“Why in the world would I want one. When I’m 50 years old I don’t want a big old tatto on me, even if it is a small one.”  

“They seem silly now - with people getting them just to be stylish it dilutes the spirit & emotional connections they used to symbolize. People used to get them to show deep attachment or devotion to a person, group or cause. Now tattoos are like pukka shell necklaces - meaningless adornment.”

“because i have never found something i would be happy to have for the rest of my life yet.”

“They are UGLY.”

“I don’t like needles. Dirty needles can give you diseases. Not all tatooists are good artists. I associate tatooes, especially bad ones, with criminal gangs and sailors. Skin stretches when you get old, and the tatooes do too --- then you look stupid. I bore easy. I had some birthmarks and got tired of looking at them and so I got them removed. It hurt and they got infected and now I have white spots where the moles were that are just as boring. I like those stick on, wash off tatooes - some are pretty and have glitter, but if they go on wrong - no problem, just wash them off.”

“Just do not consider the result to justify the high cost.”

“I don’t believe they are appropriate for me.”

“Haven’t gotten any yet”

“I never wanted one because I never believed in anything. Now that I have faith, I would like something to remind me of it.”

“I have never been able to find or decide on a symbol/picture which I wanted to be permanently associated with. Also, my husband would not have liked me to have one.”

“Haven’t found something that I’d want on my body for life although I do want to get one eventually.”

“I’ve never seen anyone so ugly that a tattoo made them look better; but I’ve seen many attractive people made look worse.”

“I change alot... it doesn’t make sense to do something permanent. (Ex. I know a guy with a Tweety Bird tattoo. Can you imagine being an old guy with a Tweety Bird tattoo?!)”

“No interest in presonalizing skin.”

“The body is much more beautiful in its natural state. It’s silly to assume that what seems important today will continue to be important.”

“I am underage. As soon as I turn 18, I will be getting a chinese symbol tattoo on my arm.”

“I’m terrified of pain. I also can’t see myself bearing one in future years without feeling embarrassed; something that permanent shouldn’t look silly on a bewrinkled (and usually wiser) version of oneself. The nursing homes will be quite entertaining in the coming years with all the residents with 'Bad Ass' tattoos.”

“They mold in time”

“I agree with with the Bible’s clear message about tattoos. Please continue to inform people. I see more people with Chinese character tattoos. Now that I am learning the Chinese language and culture I feel more people should develop the respect, the culture and language deserves.”

“I do not wish to ‘tag’ my body whatsoever, and I don’t think it would be ‘cool’. However, times change and I have found that I need something to remind me of my opportunities at success, and what success I had, and that I have thrown them away. I was looking for a single symbol to represent where I was, where I am now, and my place will forever be. I wanted to burn this into my forearm, so I can see it and feel it and remind myself that once there was peace in some past existence.”

“This didn’t really make me less likely to have a tattoo, but perhaps less likely to have a foreign-language tattoo, and DEFINITELY more careful and aware of issues to consider if I should ever get one. However, very doubtful I would ever get a tattoo. I like their appearance sometimes, and don’t fear the pain, but I find the idea of injecting ink under my skin very distasteful. There’s nothing I want to write on myself for the rest of my life, and I’d also be very concerned about how the tattoo’s appearance might change over time (and/or as my body changed). I don’t think I would ever get a tattoo that I myself could not read. I’m not completely anti-tattoo, but I think most people who get them haven’t given it adequate thought. This is definitely a very useful article, and it would be good to expand it.”

“looks dirty”

“I heard the quote ‘tattoos are a permanent reminder of momentary feeling’ - & the thought has stuck.”

“They don’t go away…”

“im underage, but am considering getting one when i hit 18”

“As I stated in #3, keep in mind potential health issues beforehand, check with your doctor. Personally, I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Graves Disease... all immune related, starting when I was a child, inherited from my mother. Throw in Chronic Asthmatic Bronchitis, allergies, and microseizures. I’d love a tattoo, but I wouldn’t even bother wasting my doctor’s time asking if it would be bad for my health.”

“I am in my 60’s. My generation thinks of tattoos only on sailors, marines and ‘lower class’  folks.”

“Because I might like something now, but will I like it in 10 years. I’m not going to permanently mar my skin. Plus, my dad would beat the crap out of me - and I’m in my 20s.”

April 2005

“Many times in the past I’ve contemplated getting a tattoo to remind myself of an achieved milestone. But as I read this and other similar sites I’ve come to understand the wisdom imparted to not deface my body. A tatto used to symbolize individuality, now quite the opposite is true and I find that my ‘blank canvas’ is truly more unique.”

“my body is the temple of god. it god property”

“Painful and they look dumb when you get old. Plus, I don’t like anything for a long enough time that I think I’d still like it or agree with the sentiment in 20 years.”

May 2005

“In the U.S. and Europe, tattoos look cheap and tawdry. They can get infected. People wearing them seem very immature. I associate them with drunken sailors. Besides, I scar easily and I hate pain.”

“I don’t see them as beautiful, stylish nor sexy. I have other ways of marking permanence in my life.”

“have not yet found the right one”

“My body is a vessle which constantly changes along with my mind and spirit. It is very much a matter of filial piety or xiao. It is highly unlikely that I would brand myself with an everlasting association, which could be regretful or result in later humiliation disgracing my parents. I have learned to keep my body as open and free as my mind.”

“Why? That might possibly change, but not as far as I can see.”

June 2005

“Don’t like them.”

“I don’t understand the desire to begin with and if that is not enough, why woudl you do anything permanent? I change my style, mind, etc. often.”

“I don’t believe in teh desecration of the body and why would I want to put a symbol on my body that I probably won’t want there in 10 or 15 years?”

July 2005

“If I imagine having one, I’d feel very much controlled and defined by the tattoo. People only want to be ‘cool’ in certain situations, not reminded by a tattoo that they are supposed to be ‘cool’ 24/7. It reeks of disturbingly one-dimensional personality, were the person truly that simple or not.”

“I do not have a tatto at the time becuase I am under age an my parents will not allow it.”

“It would only make sense to get a tattoo of something that has significant meaning in your life. But if it’s that important to you, why would you need a tattoo to prove its significance?”

“It seems silly to want to do something so permanent, and it tends to call other peoples attention to the tattoo instead of what you are saying or doing. It gives the impression of a lower class person, or one who follows fads.”

August 2005

“Never found one I like.”

“Permanent marking, I could only consider some Henna or such markings that would last for few months or so.”

September 2005

“Have never known what to get tattooed on myself.”

“People say their tattoo's are unique, but how can you be unique if a thousand people have the similar thing in the same place?”

“It wasn’t really something one did/does among my peers (especially when I was younger and more likely to have gotten one). Plus it hurts and is a pain to care for at first. I'm still a little intrigued by the idea, and might get one if I had a friend who wanted to do it together.”

“just don’t like”

“Tattoos will stay with you until your dead and buried! They are regarded as Evil and condemend by God. Human flesh should be presevered and kept as when born. Why have tattoos for the rest of your life? They get old, faded streched and make people look ‘rough’ and rebels in society. Why do people copy famous people or people who have tattoes. I ask myself why tattoos are becoming so popular and in the future we will have a lots of old people with ugly, faded old tattoed freaks. I hate them!!”

October 2005

“I have considered it several times, but could never decide on a symbol that I knew I would just love to see every day of my life. It would have kept me tied too much in the past as I know life is full of unforseeable changes. Also, I have seen old tatoos, and they usually don’t age well ;)” 

“I have piercings instead, which can be removed.”

November 2005

“Courage, a sign, the right time, safety, second thoughts.”

“because i might change my mind next month and decide i dont want it ne mo.”

“I feel that they are ‘messing with perfection’, in that I was given this body in this form and fashion. It is nice just the way it is.” 

“I dont want to regret it one daY since it is permanent.”

“I havent found a tattooo i want.”

December 2005

“Not sure on what to get. So many different designs and styles.”

“It destroys the beauty of your body given to you by God.”


9. Should we keep this article on our Web site to inform users about the possible negatives of having Asian symbols tattooed?


Yes 81.9%

No 6.9%

No comment 10.3%



Eighteen years of providing meaningful Chinese characters for 3,000+ small businesses in North America and 45 countries worldwide. Created and Crafted in California, U.S.A.

Copyright © 2001-2020 Good Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. Good Characters — That's who we are; that's what we do. Privacy Policy