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!

Artist of the Month: Nissaco

Nissaco is a tattoo artist based in Shinsaibashi Osaka at an unnamed private studio that goes by the name room_23_26 on Instagram.

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Smaller scale pieces. Healed waves and fresh geometrical shell design.

Nissaco does mainly large scale pieces such as full sleeves, back pieces, and even body suits. His style is black geometrical work and it is extremely detailed.

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Big and painful back of the leg going right over the knee ditch with some popping red in the mandala and linework designs.
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Full back piece right over the butt and legs leading into a great sleeve on the left arm. Some great use of negative space in the back.
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Fantastic sleeve with bird skull and eye mixed with geometrical designs.

His work is hard sought after with visitors going to see him from all around the world. Along with having clients from around the world, he also travels, going to various tattoo conventions. Most recent he will be at the 13th London Tattoo convention in September 2017.

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Filler neck/throat piece that fits great with the adjacent neck pieces.
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Matching geometric sleeves.
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Full back and legs with a lot of heavy blackwork for filler.
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Full front is a tender area going right onto the nipples, with brilliant line work and heavy blacks.
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Brilliant full torso, sleeve, and two leg sleeves with geometric designs and a hidden face.
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Half body suit full of heavy blacks in large scale geometrics.
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Fantastic intricate healed geometric design.

Along with being geometrical in design, Nissaco’s work also often features classic Japanese elements such as dragons, waves, flowers, snakes, koi fish, and hannya masks. These pieces are almost entirely black, but occasionally feature a small amount of red to make them really pop.

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Full front, sleeve, and half leg sleeve. Featuring a brilliant Japanese dragon, and flowers such as chrysanthemums and cherry blossoms.
Nissaco 10
Great geometric koi fish with some colour thrown in.
Nissaco 11
Heavy blacks and lots of negative space with this angry hannya.
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Another hannya coming off of a sleeve and onto the back.

Nissaco is a must see artist in Osaka, Japan, but book well in advance as his books fill up fast!

Sailor Moon Tattoos:

Sailor Moon is a popular Japanese Anime show based off the 52 manga chapters entitled Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. The show premiered in Japan in 1992 and was popular there as well as overseas.

sailor Alicia Foley
Brooch and crystals with colourful dotwork on the knee done by Alivia Foley at Artful Dodger Tattoo in Seattle.
Sailor Uls Metzger at Puro Tattoo in Italy
Dotwork mandala and brooch by Uls Metzger at Puro Tattoo in Italy.
sailor Nikko Hurtado at Black Anchor Collective in L.A
Photo realistic Sailor Moon portrait by Nikko Hurtado at Black Anchor Collective In L.A.

Sailor Moon is the heroine name of the main character, a young woman who fights evil. A cat named Luna gives Sailor Moon, or Usagi (Serena in English), a magical brooch that transforms her into Sailor Moon. Throughout the show Usagi/Serena meets other young women who are also given magical objects able to transform them. Together they form the Sailor Soldiers. Along with being able to transform, they have other items that help them to fight evil.

sailor Anunnakitattoo
Bright purple one by Laura Anunnaki.
Sailor Charlotte Ann Harris at Castle Ink Studio in Birmingham, UK
Black dotwork piece by Charlotte Ann Harris at Castle Ink Studio in Birmingham, UK.
sailor Eric Flannes
Fight like a girl! By Eric Flannes.

The show is particularly popular with young woman as it is about strong, powerful women who fight evil and are portrayed as strong and capable, but also human, capable of having human breakdowns as well as strength.The show also has themes of love triumphing over hate.

Sailor Erick Holguin at Ink and Dagger in Roswell, GA
In Japanese Sailor Moon is called Usagi which translated means bunny! Realistic piece done by Erick Holguin at Ink and Dagger in Roswell, GA.
sailor Helena Darling in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Brooch, dotwork mandala by Helena Darling in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
sailor Kimberly Wall at Black Rabbit Tattoo in Richmond, VA
Lotus and crystal thigh piece done by Kimberly Wall at Black Rabbit Tattoo in Richmond, VA.
sailor Teresa Sharpe at Unkindness Art in Richmond, VA
Neo traditional flowers, script, and brooch by Teresa Sharpe at Unkindness Art in Richmond, VA.

As a tattoo, many people get Sailor Moon or the other Sailor Soldiers, the cats Luna, Artemis, and Diana, the different magical items, and the crescent moon. These tattoos are often bright and colourful but can also be done in blackwork. Styles range from American traditional, neo traditional, realistic, new school, dotwork, blackwork, black and grey, and watercolour.

sailor Kadee Spangler at Chroma Tattoo
Luna by Kadee Spangler at Chroma Tattoo.
sailor Brando Chiesa
Bright realistic/ neo traditional Artemis by Brando Chiesa on Florence, Italy.
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Neck Artemis with sceptre by Brando again.
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One more Artemis and creepy Sailor Moon by Brando once more.

Who is your favorite Sailor Moon character?

Deathly Hallows Tattoos:

The Deathly Hallows are three magical objects from the Harry Potter series that together make up a triangular design that when worn shows you are a believer. The three objects are the Elder Wand, a wand made to be unbeatable, The Resurrection Stone, which brings back the dead, and the Cloak of Invisibility which as it says, renders the user completely invisible. The cloak forms a triangle, the stone is a circle within the triangle, and the wand is a straight line within the triangle and circle.

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My own Hallows and quote Done by Carly Montgomery at First String Tattoo in Winnipeg.

The story of the Deathly Hallows is first told in the seventh book. In the story, Death created each of these three items, and gave them to the three Peverell brothers who had outsmarted Death by crossing a river that usually claimed lives. These items were their rewards for outsmarting him. The two eldest brothers had requested the wand and the stonem but both met grisly deaths due to the nature of their magical items. The wand caused Antioch Peverell to gloat, leading him to be killed in his sleep and have the wand stolen, while the stone caused Cadmus Peverell to take his own life after bringing his late wife back from the dead, as she was unable to be happy in the land of the living again. The youngest brother Ignotus Peverell requested Death’s own cloak, and used it to avoid him until he was ready for Death. Ignotus passed the cloak on to his son and from there greeted Death “like an old friend”. This cloak is the very same on that Harry had passed down to him.

hallows Brit Tigera
White Hallows and bright flowers by Brit Tigera.
hallows Felipe Bernardes
Watercolour background with Hallows and hand holding onto the Elder Wand by Felipe Bernardes.
hallows Fulvio Vaccarone
Neo traditional hand with Hogwarts and Hallows by Fulvio Vaccarone at Dark Ink Tattoo Studio in Italy.

Lovers of the Harry Potter series, whether the books or films, have often gotten the Deathly Hallows as a tattoo to show their love of magic. The Deathly Hallows symbol is often paired with quotes or other images such as flowers, Hogwarts, magical creatures, spells, potions, and people’s patronuses.

hallows Helena Darling, Halifax Nova Scotia
Brightly coloured Hogwarts in a globe with Hallows by Helena Darling in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
hallows Jack Peppiette
Brilliant geometric patterned back of the neck piece with Hallows by Jack Peppiette at Insider Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland.
hallows Mike D Old Rose Tattoo Califirnia
Hallows and American Traditional rose by Mike D. at Old Rose Tattoo in California.
hallows Nichola Pierport at Jays Inks in Lincoln UK.
Blackwork/dotwork tree’s, broomstick, wand, snitch, and Hallows by Nichola Pierport at Jays Inks in Lincoln, UK.
hallows Raul William
Golden snitch, Harry Potter, and Hallows with watercolour background by Raul Willian at Jack Tattoo.
hallows Ryan Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem Ma
Mcgonagall in cat form with Hallows by Ryan Murray at Black Veil Tattoo in Salem, MA.
hallows Ryan Tews
White Hallows and bright watercolour background by Ryan Tews in Calgary, Alberta.
Hallows Twon Egypt
Blackwork Hallows and and Augrey, a magical bird creature that is tattooed on the Character Delphi from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Done by Twon in Egypt.

“Always” keep the magic alive!

Tiger Tattoos:

Tiger’s make a fantastic design and can be done in many different styles including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, American traditional, neo traditional, black and grey, photo realism, dotwork, geometric style, and watercolor.

tiger Adam Guy Hays
Neo traditional scalp tiger done by Adam Guy Hays at Red Rock Tattoo.

Tiger tattoos can also carry many different meanings. When done in an Asian style a tiger represents strength, courage, long life, and are also meant to ward off evil spirits, bad luck, and even disease. When done in a more Western style such as American traditional, black and grey, realism, etc.. the tiger is tattooed for its beauty, power, and intensity.

tiger Adrian Bascur
Watercolor space tiger done by Adrian Bascur in Chile.
tiger Alex Gotza
Huge neo traditional three-eyed tiger head by Alex Gotza done at Dirty Roses Tattoo Studio.
tiger Brian Flores
Beautiful neo traditional tiger head by Brian Flores in Spain.
tiger Sandra Dauksh
Photo realistic tiger head with flowers done by Sandra Daukshta at Home of Tattoos in Latvia.
tiger Mikey Holmes
American traditional tiger fighting a snake done by Mikey Holmes at coast to Coast Tattoo in Charlotte NC.
tiger Stefan Johnsson
Another American traditional tiger fighting a snake done by Stefan Johnsson at California Electric Tattoo Parlor in California.

Tigers are one of the biggest predators in the world, and are a solitary creature, so are often seen as symbols of strength and resilience. Tiger tattoos are often done just as a head, but can also be done as a full body. Generally tiger heads are done in a more Western design, with a full body tiger being done in an Asian style, though both can be done in any style.

tiger Apro Lee Seoul
Korean style blackwork tiger done by Apro Lee in Seoul South Korea.
tiger Eli Ferguson Ichi Tattoo
Japanese tiger done by Eli Ferguson at Ichi Tattoo in Tokyo.
Tiger Sean Cushnie Kapala
Unfinished Japanese backpiece done by Sean Cushnie at Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg.
tiger Jakob Holst Rasmussen
Realistic black and grey tiger head by Jakob Holst Rasmussen done in Aarhus, Denmark.
tiger Mark Ostein
Geometric dotwork tiger head done by Mark Ostein at Wozen Studio in Lisbon.
Tiger Matt Jordan, Ship Shape Tattoo New Zealand
Realistic full back piece with skulls done by Matt Jordan at Ship Shape Tattoo in New Zealand.

What is your favorite style for a tiger tattoo?

White Ink Tattoos

White ink tattoos is a style that is much talked about in the tattoo community. Such a light colour will always fade quite a lot, but the discreteness of this style is also what makes it popular. Some people are also fond of them for the fact that when they are noticed, they look more like a scar than a tattoo, without having to go get scarification done. If done properly, white ink tattoos can look fantastic, and last a reasonably long time. Some people choose to get white ink pieces mixed with light amounts of yellow or brown in order to make them last longer, while others let them run their course and fade naturally. That being said, most of these pieces should last a lifetime, if not being particularly noticeable.

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Great half mandala by artist Ryan One.
tumblr Stephanie A Rogers
Small arrows done by Stephanie A. Rogers.

Watson Atkinson is one of the most sought out white ink tattoo artists. His work Below shows what attention to detail he has.

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Floral half sleeve by Watson Atkinson.
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Amazingly detailed geometric and floral sleeve by Watson Atkinson.
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White face tattoo by Watson Atkinson. This will look great when fully healed.

White ink tattoos are often done on top of black pieces to really make them pop.

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Fantastic mandala ditch piece by Easy Sacha.
tumblr Esther Garcia, Chicago Illinois
Done by Esther Garcia. This piece really pops.
tumblr Wayne Fredrickson
Geometric tribal piece by Wayne Fredrickson.
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And last but not least, a great rib piece by the talented Madame Chan

What’s your view on white ink tattoos?

 

Moth Tattoos

Moth tattoos are the darker version of a butterfly tattoo. They often stand for searching for a light in the dark. They are also often associated with moonlight, searching for this light with little to no regard for their own safety. This makes it a vulnerable, spontaneous, but determined creature.

tumblr Duncan Whitfield. Southampton, UK
Creepy, super realistic moth done by Duncan Whitfield, in Southampton, UK.

Moth tattoos can be done in most styles, but are most popular in black and grey, dotwork, realism, and old school. They are also often done in neo traditional.

tumblr Cory Craft in Lakeland FL, Black Swan Tattoo
Traditional death moth and moon pairing done by Cory Craft in Lakeland FL, Black Swan Tattoo.

Death moth tattoos are also an extremely popular design. Deaths-Head Hawkmoth get their name from a species of moth that gets it’s name from the skull-like mark on its thorax. It has often been seen as a bad omen in history.In 1840, entomologist Moses Harris wrote that “It is regarded not as the creation of a benevolent being, but the device of evil spirits—spirits enemies to man—conceived and fabricated in the dark, and the very shining of its eyes is thought to represent the fiery element whence it is supposed to have proceeded. Flying into their apartments in the evening at times it extinguishes the light; foretelling war, pestilence, hunger, death to man and beast.” It is no wonder then that it is a popular tattoo design for lovers of the darker side of life.

tumblr Alex Bage
Death moth done on the back of the head by Alex Bage, done at Fat Panda tattoo in the UK.
tumblr Ela Berger
Neo traditional hand moth done by Ela Berger, a neo trad artist from Germany.
tumblr James Armstrong
Black and grey sternum piece by James Armstrong done at Holy Mountain tattoo in Scunthorpe UK.
tumblr Jay Van Gerven
A rare watercolor moth and coverup tattoo done by Jay Van Gerven working out of Titan Tattoos in Hobart Tasmania.
tumblr Justin Dion, Portland Oregon
Small colorful elbow piece by Justin Dion at Sovereign Tattoo in Portland Oregon.
tumblr Kamil Mokot
An amazing black and dotwork back tattoo done by Kamil Mokot at AKA Berlin tattoo in Germany.
tumblr Levi Hatch
Beautiful blackwork moth once again paired with a moon, done by Levi Hatch.
tumblr Lipa Andrzej
An amazing macabre neo traditional moth and moon pairing done by Lipa Andrzej. See her work and where she will be tattooing at https://www.instagram.com/_lipa_/
tumblr Uls Metzger
Amazingly detailed Dotwork tattoo done by Uls Metzger tattooing out of the Black Lodge, in Poland.
tumblr Virginia Elwood
Old school death moth tattoo by Virginia Elwood working out of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, New York.
tumblr Zach Bowden
One last traditional death moth tattoo done by Zach Bowden working out of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Do you have your own moth tattoo? Let’s see it in the comments!

Artist of the Month: Grace Neutral

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Grace Neutral is a handpoke, dotwork, blackwork artist, tattooing out of London England. She has been a tattoo artist since 2012 after being a piercer prior. She is most known for her unique look; pointed ears, split tongue, many piercings and tattoos, no belly button, and most notably, her purple tattooed eyes. She is a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, particularly My Neighbor Totoro, and often tattoos characters from the film, and other Miyazaki films. She does many mandala tattoos, and incorporates her own style into her work. She guest spots at many different shops in London, but also around the world. If you would like to get ahold of her for a tattoo, email her here at graceneutraltattoo@gmail.com.

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A large Kukri Knife. That solid blackwork isn’t going anywhere.
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The more and more popular unalome design.
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Simple moon and spots.
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full geometric sleeve, ending with a lotus on the palm. This would have taken hours and hours to complete.
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Grace’s own style shines through brightly in this quirky piece. Clean lettering adds to the detailed knives.
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A larger sternum piece. This must have hurt!

Detailed mandalas always look great, and between the shoulder blades is a solid placement for these designs.

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An ax from Grace’s flash set.

Which one is your favorite?

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