Tattoo History 7: China’s Hainan Province’s Tattooed Li Women

The Li people live in Hainan Province, China’s most southern point. Tattoos in Hainan can be traced as far back as 3000 years ago. Hainan is often referred to as “The Tail of the Dragon”, as it is the most southern point of China, though also used to be called one of the eyeballs of China (along with Taiwan when it was a part of China) as it is an island province.

Li face tattoo 1980
Li woman’s face tattoo, taken in the 1980’s.

According to one German ethnologist (branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationship between them), Hans Stübel, the origin of their tattooing came from a story about a descendant of the original Li. This descendant of Li had a daughter whose mother died early in the child’s life. When this happened, a colourful native bird called the hoopoe fed the child with grains to keep her alive. In remembrance of this, the Li women tattoo themselves to look more like the birds, both in their colour and the patterns of their wings.

Li geometric tattoos of a Basaadung Li woman from 1930
More geometric face tattoos, specifically of a Basaadung Li woman from the 1930’s.

Others still believe that the women tattooed themselves in order to be recognized in the afterlife.

A more practical reason that these women tattooed themselves, particularly on their faces, is the fact that their villages would be attacked often by many of their neighbors. In order to appear unattractive to the invading men, the Li women tattooed quite intricate designs on their faces and down their necks. Making themselves appear less attractive protected them from violence and rape.

Li married and un married women with leg and hand tattoos from 1930
Married and unmarried women, all with leg tattoos, and some with hand tattoos. Taken in the 1930’s.

Later on in history though, these women saw the tattoos as an enhancement to their beauty. When a girl turned 13 or 14, an older woman would tattoo her, first on the nape of her neck, then her face and throat over the course of 5-7 days. Then, over the next 3 years, she would continue to be tattooed along her arms and legs. The only thing that interrupted this would be the death of a family member. Once a woman married, her hand would also be tattooed, marking her as a married woman.

Li old woman
More beautiful geometric face tattoos, taken in the 1980’s.

Like many ancient cultures, the Li used a bamboo rod, with rattan needles to hand tap the designs into the skin. The patterns used did vary from tribe to tribe, but all used motifs taken from nature, such as plants, animals, and totemic symbols passed down through generations.

Li progress tattoo
Geometric face tattoo in progress. The old tattooing the young.

Information taken from:

-Carrie E. Reed. “Tattoo in Early China.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 120, no. 3, 2000, pp. 360–376.Liu, H. (1939).

-“Hainan: The Island and the People.” The China Journal 29(5-6): 236-246; 302-314.

-McCabe, M. [and Q.Y. Wang] (2008). “Tattooed Women of Yunnan, China.” Skin and Ink Magazine (11): 64-74.

-Stϋbel, H. (1937). Die Li Stämme der Insel Hainan: Ein Betrag zur Volkskunde Sϋdchinas. Berlin: Klinkhardt & Bierman.
 

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Winnipeg Artist 7: Stephen McConnell

Stephen McConnell is an artist at Main Street Tattoo Collective in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Neo trad bear with beautiful fall leaves and bright red sun.
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Dark Kylo Ren portrait.
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Matching hammerhead shark and great white in American traditional style.

Stephen’s work ranges from black and grey, to realism, watercolor, American traditional, blackwork, geometric, and neo traditional.

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Beautiful American traditional shoulder rose.
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Black and grey skull and mask.
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Huge black and grey owl with geometric patterns and some dotwork on the sternum.
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Blackwork creepy shrunken head.
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Travel themed piece with hot air balloon and luggage!
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Fantastic portrait!
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Geometric half sleeve with both black and red, creating a brilliant duality.
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Painful full torso crane with dotwork halo.
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American traditional lady head.
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Creepy Norman Bates with his house.
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American traditional French Bulldog portrait!
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Three forearm mandalas.
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Amazing almost finished realistic lion half sleeve.

Stephen McConnell is a must visit artist in Winnipeg!

IT Tattoos:

“‘IT” is the 1986 novel by horror genius, Stephen King. The book takes place between two time periods, and follows the experiences of seven children, as well as later when they are adults. Pennywise is actually a demon shapeshifter, who usually takes the form of a clown in order to lure children.

IT Aimée Lou at Bespoke Tattoo Co in Guilford, UK
We All Float Down Here, with boat and balloon by Aimée Lou at Bespoke Tattoo Co. in Guilford, UK.
IT Carlos Rojas at Black Anchor Collective, Hesparia, CA
Realistic and terrifying portrait of the new Pennywise by Carlos Rojas at Black Anchor Collective, Hesparia, CA.

The story was made into a popular mini series in 1990, starring Tim Curry as the terrifying Pennywise the clown. The mini series also follows these seven children, with a large focus on their lives 30 years later as they try to protect their town. Many people who are coulrophobic (afraid of clowns) attribute this fear to Tim Curry’s brilliant portrayal of the murderous demon clown.

IT Cruz Valdez at Evil Emporium of Tattoos in Santa Fe New Mexico
Another portrait of the new Pennywise, by Cruz Valdez at Evil Emporium of Tattoos in Santa Fe New Mexico.
IT Ick Abrams
Tim Curry’s Pennywise in a neo traditional portrait with “we all float down here”, by Ick Abrams.

Now (2017), IT has been re made into a feature length film, this time starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. The new version of Pennywise is much more overtly frightening, which some people like, and some people don’t. This re make is slotted to have the best opening day ever for an R rated horror movie, and has made the most money on an opening weekend of any other horror movie. This film has had great advertising in the months leading up to its release, and also stars Finn Wolfhard, one of the very popular actors from Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

IT Ivih Maia in Brazil
Minimalistic balloon and hand by Ivih Maia in Brazil.
IT Jay Blackburn at Powerline Tattoo in Cranston RI
Minimalistic paper boat with blood splatter by Jay Blackburn at Powerline Tattoo in Cranston RI.

As a tattoo, Pennywise is by far the most popular character to be tattooed. Tim Curry has been tattooed on people for a long time, as the mini series is a such a popular cult classic. Even though the new movie has only been out a short time currently, Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise is quickly being tattooed for fans all around the world. Along with Pennywise, fans also get his red balloon, a toy paper boat, and the phrase “we all float down here”.

IT Jessica Downer at Inland Empire, CA
Terrifying Tim Curry portrait with balloons by Jessica Downer at Inland Empire, CA.
IT Marek Maras Rydzewski at Reinkarnacja Tattoo Studio in Warsaw
Horrifying hyper realistic portrait of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise by Marek Maras Rydzewski at Reinkarnacja Tattoo Studio in Warsaw.

These tattoos are mostly done in portrait/realism styles, along with black and grey, and neo traditional.

IT Medz at The Kingdom Tattoo Gallery in Miami
Great mix of black, grey, and white, with vibrant red for a fantastic portrait of Bill Skarsgård by Medz at The Kingdom Tattoo Gallery in Miami.
IT Mike Biggs at Bigs studio
Bright Tim Curry Pennywise in a more traditional style by Mike Biggs at Biggs Studio.
IT Nick Sarich at Timeless Tattoos Chicago
Fantastic Tim Curry by Nick Sarich at Timeless Tattoos in Chicago.
IT Paul Acker at the Séance Tattoo Parlour in Bensalem PA
Absolutely stunning IT half sleeve by the talented Paul Acker at the Séance Tattoo Parlour in Bensalem PA.
IT Sabri Art at Black Heart Tattoo in Argentina
Blackwork/dotwork Pennywise in a knife by Sabri Art at Black Heart Tattoo in Argentina.
IT Shane Murphy at Crown of Thorns Tattoo in Worcester, MA LC
Geometric we all float down here and Pennywise by Shane Murphy at Crown of Thorns Tattoo in Worcester, MA LC.
IT Simon Drolet at Art Therapy Corp in Osyoyoos BC
Black and grey portrait of a crying Tim Curry Pennywise by Simon Drolet at Art Therapy Corp in Osoyoos BC.

Which story of IT, is your favorite?

 

Artist of the Month: Zhuo Dan Ting

Zhuo Dan Ting is the owner of Shanghai Tattoo as of January 2007 (located in Shanghai, China) where she tattoos people from all around the world. People seek out her art from far and wide, and are not disappointed with the results.

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Black and grey baby portrait.
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Realistic elephant half sleeve.
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Black and grey bio mechanical sleeve.

Zhuo Dan Ting has been an artist since an early age, where her father (an art teacher himself) and his friends would teach her new techniques. She went on to art school in Harbin after high school, but quickly moved onto something entirely different.

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Black and grey Asian leg sleeve featuring Fu Dog, peony, and great wall of China.
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Bio mechanical/ripped skin/ realism back piece!
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Bright dragon and flower half sleeve.
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Amazing realistic Greek Poseidon sleeve.

Ting found the subcultures of death metal and punk music, which is where she fell in love with tattoos. Ting started off tattooing her friends in Harbin’s underground music scene, where she quickly started making a name for herself in the tattoo world.

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Full black and grey realistic sleeve with monster, lightning, waves, etc.
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Ting doing her thing, tattooing a painful chest piece!
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Surrealist color sleeve with angel, skull, and watercolor.
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Color realism owl, skull, and eyeball half sleeve.

 

Ting does brilliant black and grey, photo realism, portrait art, and Asian styled pieces inspired by both Chinese and Japanese art. Along with making beautiful art, Ting was also the first woman in China to open her own tattoo shop, a big step for the Chinese tattoo community!

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Black and grey Monkey King half sleeve.
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Realistic color eye.
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Brilliant Japanese style peony flower.
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Realistic Japanese/Chinese style dragon sleeve.
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Realistic portrait.
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Terrifying zombie clown portrait.

If you’re in Shanghai, Shanghai Tattoo is the place to go!

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