Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Thursday, 19 February 2009 01:05







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Wednesday, 18 February 2009 21:23

Prayer with Salt and Pepper

Jerry Martinson, S.J., shares with us his ways of praying and meditating.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 20:47

Tattoo culture and body art

Tattooing is traditionally done with a needle dipped in ink, in a hand-tapping motion that leaves behind a permanent image on the body of the person being tattooed. A painful process, tattooing oneself is often related to other situations involving facing pain voluntarily, such as that of a soldier courageously facing death at battle. It is an act of endurance for pain that many believe to be an experience of another sense of living. Such factors have contributed to making the practice of tattooing today, an expression of courage or a symbol of identity. In some cultures, sporting tattoos is a sign of rank and prestige, an example being the custom of face-tattooing in the Tayal or the Saisiyat tribes in Taiwan. In ancient Egypt, tattoos are also used to define different social ranks whilst during the Victorian era women had the habit of tattooing the outlines of their lips.

The practice of tattooing in ancient China was first introduced in Mozi’s Gong Heng, whereby a Barbarian king was described as having a tattooed body. Through the writing’s negative connotations of tattoos, we can deduce that the practice of tattooing was not highly regarded by the mainstream Chinese culture, particularly those from the Central Plains whom considered it to be a barbaric practice.

In literature, tattoos were often associated with ‘rebels’ such as the characters described in Water Margin, one of the four greatest classical novels of Chinese literature where at least three main characters sport tattoos all over their body: Lu Zhishen, aka ‘The Flowery Monk’, Shi Jin who is nicknamed ’Nine tattooed dragons’ and Yan Qing ‘The Wanderer’. Thus, writers widely used descriptions and mentions of tattoos to emphasize the savage strength and the charisma of the characters as well as their inclination towards rebellions.

With the modernization of society, tattooing gradually became perceived as a form of body art, widely accepted by the younger generation. Tattooed people are no longer confined to the margins of society; they initiate associations, conduct tattoo expositions and interact better with others. In Japan, tattoos are considered as very valuable pieces of art and tattooed people often see their body-tattoos as supporting the work of tattoo masters. In other countries, people have also opened up to a wide variety of tattoos. For instance, it is in vogue now in some western countries to tattoo several Chinese characters or Arabic words that may not be necessarily coherent. In Hong Kong it is now fashionable to tattoo words in Sanskrit while most Chinese people may prefer English words. The more exotic the writing is for the individual, the more attractive it is.
Nevertheless, it seems like there is still a long way to go to overcome the social prejudice that associates tattooed people with rebelliousness.

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