Today is the 6th anniversary of the day I first set foot in China.  Those six years have been a lifetime for me.

Here is the tattoo I got done a couple of weeks ago.  It's kind of maze-like but if you look closely, you'll see in the middle of the design, there is a snake winding itself around my arm.  And if you look even more closely, you'll see that the snake's head is broken.  This comes from a passage in Genesis where God tells Eve that her seed with crush the serpent's head (meaning Jesus will conquer Satan).  The design encircles my left elbow.  The tattoo quality isn't the greatest, and I'll have to get it touched up sometime, but I like the pattern, and I think it fits well with the tribal/circles-and-triangles theme of my left arm.
Tina also got her third tattoo on the same day.  It's a little "Z" on her ankle in honor of our little Z.  I personally think ankle tattoos are very sexy and I applaud Tina's bravery for choosing to go under the needle for a third time (she really really dislikes the pain of tattoos).
I don't really have the small town blues- it just sounded cool for the post title.  Actually what I wanted to talk about are the frequency of tattoos in my new area of residence.  When I lived inside Xiamen city limits, I spotted tattoos every once in a while but not too often.  However, now that I live outside the city in a smaller, commercial/industrial suburb, I'm surprised how often I see tattoos.

There is a large population of youngsters in their late-teens/early-20s who work in the local factories/warehouses/supermarkets/clothes shops/etc.  For reasons that I don't completely understand, I see them sporting tattoos in great numbers.  For the guys, if you see a group walking around in sleeveless shirts/no shirts, at least one of them will be inked.  For the girls, colorful ankle and shoulder tattoos are also common.  There is a large number of hookers and massage girls in our area, and more often than not, it's girls heading to work in the early evening all heavily made-up that are tattooed.  I imagine that people might suspect the same thing of my wife if they didn't see her pushing a baby stroller or walking around with me.

I'm not looking down my nose at my neighbors- if anything some might look down on me, since I'm inked up like a prison convict.  I just wonder where the inspiration to get tattooed comes from out here, where the Western influence is less prevalent than in the city.  Chinese traditional thinking regarding tattoos parallels the Japanese attitude: that tattoos are primarily the domain of social unsavories, like crooks and hookers.  You'll find a more open mind in China's cosmopolitan areas, but this isn't once of them.  Yet I can't help but draw comparison to the American inner city and country regions, where you'll find lots of tattoos at the liquor store and local Wal-Mart, and not so many in wealthy suburbs and business districts. 

Again, I don't want to sound judgmental, and it would be very hypocritical if I was, but perhaps there is a correlation between the desire to get tattooed and being a member society's lower classes.  Since people seek to distinguish themselves by any means necessary, and since people in lower classes have less means to do so, tattoos are a convenient and available way to show one's "distinctiveness."  I say that sarcastically of course since the prevalence of tattoos has essentially watered down its effectiveness as a badge of individuality.   I've stated in other posts that the reasons Chinese people often tattooed usually differs from those in the West, but the fact remains: businesspeople, bankers, educators, lawyers, and other people whose identities are largely tied to their white-collar careers rarely get tattooed, regardless of country.  Those with less people to impress and less face to lose are more likely to get inked.  Whatever the reasons are, I'm glad they're becoming more common with everyday folk, since the social stigma is about twenty years past its expiration date.

09/10/2011 12:19

I love the motif of the power of Eve crushing the serpent's head. This is a universal theme: the power of the female capacity (in every person) to crush or shatter the unitary lateral forces that strain harmony in the universe.


09/10/2011 22:09

@Puma: Thanks for your compliment, although your interpretation is a bit different from what I envisioned. For me, it symbolizes a purely religious precept, that Jesus would overcome Satan (and evil). The fact that he is the seed of the woman in this instance is not significant to his ability to complete this task.

I generally steer clear of metaphysical gender-centric discussions, since it seems to unnecessarily complicate obvious truths. Yes, there are male and female elements present in everyone, but singling them out and ascribing strengths and weaknesses to them seems to me to create division and fractures where there doesn't have to be any. In this age of excessive sensitivity, particularly in this area, I really have no interest in these discussions. But it seems that you already have your mind made up, so I won't belabor the point.


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