Oriental Tattoos

Commonly mistaken as solely Japanese tattoos, oriental tattoos depict traditional symbols from Asian cultures, including Japan, Thailand, China, Indonesia and India.

Commonly mistaken as solely Japanese tattoos, oriental tattoos depict traditional symbols from Asian cultures, including Japan, Thailand, China, Indonesia and India.

History of Oriental Tattoos

The oriental style can be traced back thousands of years in Japan, Thailand, China, Indonesia and India. At that time, tattoos were used for spiritual, cultural and ceremonial purposes.

When tattoos first originated in Japan, they were solely worn by criminals to identify each other. They were also worn as a symbol of rebellion. As time passed and the introduction of sailors brought new techniques to the country, tattoos became a way for everyone to express themselves.

In China, tattoos were often worn only by members of the upper class as a way to show off their status and wealth. The tattoos were also worn to protect the wearer from evil spirits.

Characteristics of Oriental Tattoos

In India, tattoos were initially worn as jewellery that no one could take. Prominent among the ancient tribes, tattoos became more popular amongst the general population as time passed.

In Thailand, the history of tattoos is strongly linked to the Buddhist religion and monks. Traditional Thai tattoos (known as Sak Yant) have been around for centuries but became more popular in the 1990s as they spread to other countries.

Tattoos in Indonesia were developed by ancient tribes in Borneo. However, with the introduction of Christianity in the 1950s, the traditional style (hand tapping) of Indonesian tattooing nearly died out. Today, however, tattoo studios in Indonesia still proudly offer the traditional method.

Characteristics that make oriental tattoos different from other styles include:

  • Thick, dark lines
  • Detailed shading
  • Large size
  • Vibrant colours

Some of the symbols and motifs popular amongst oriental tattoo designs include

  • Dragons
  • Koi fish
  • Geisha girls
  • Yin Yang
  • Om
  • Lotus flower
  • Buddha

Different Meanings of Oriental Tattoos

The different types of oriental tattoo ideas and styles include

Dragons are one of the most famous symbols in Asian culture. In Chinese culture, dragon tattoos are worn to symbolise strength, courage and good luck.
Koi fish
Popular in Japanese culture, koi fish represents strength, perseverance and good luck. When tattooed, koi fish are often depicted swimming upstream, illustrating how the wearer has overcome obstacles.
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossom flowers hold profound spiritual significance in Asian cultures. In Japan, the cherry blossom symbolises beauty and the fleetingness of life.
Samurai warriors
A popular oriental tattoo motif, especially in Japan, samurai warriors represent courage, honour and strength.
Geisha girls
Geisha girls hold a lot of cultural and spiritual significance in Japan. Geisha girls symbolise beauty, elegance and grace.
Chinese phoenix
Symbolising rebirth, immortality and new beginnings, the Chinese phoenix is a prevalent symbol in Chinese culture. In Chinese oriental tattoos, the phoenix is often depicted rising from the ashes or flying, representing the wearer who has overcome tough challenges.
Yin Yang
The Yin Yang is a very popular Chinese symbol worldwide, especially in Chinese culture. The Yin (dark swirl) represents protection, while the Yang (light swirl) represents positive hopes and growth.
The Om is a popular symbol in Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Indonesian cultures, representing the Universe and the ultimate reality. The Om tattoo reminds the wearer of their spiritual journey and potential.
The Buddha is a significant figure in the Indian, Thai, Nepalese and Tibetan cultures. When depicted in tattoos, the Buddha looks peaceful in meditation, surrounded by symbols of enlightenment, such as the lotus flower.
Popular in Indian culture, Ganesha is the Indian elephant god symbolising wisdom, strength and good luck.
Khon masks
A traditional Thai symbol, khon masks represent gods, demons and other supernatural beings in Thai culture. A khon mask tattoo is believed to bring protection and strength to the wearer.
Pra Pidta
The Pra Pidta is a popular Buddha image often depicted with its hands covering its eyes. In Thai culture, Pra Pidta represents protection and good luck, making it a popular motif in oriental tattoos.
Lotus flower
The lotus flower is a popular symbol in oriental tattoo designs, especially for Buddhists. The lotus flower represents the Buddhist Eightfold Path and the purity of the soul. Depending on the colour of the lotus, it has a different meaning (blue for wisdom and knowledge, white for spiritual and mental purity and red for love and compassion).

If you’d like an oriental tattoo, book an appointment at your nearest Celebrity Ink studio.

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