Beijing Tattoo Culture

So, I have two questions that I would like to, and have every intention of being able to, explore this summer in Beijing.

1)      How are tattooed persons viewed in contemporary Chinese (specifically a district in Beijing) society? (e.g. are they viewed as having a lower social standing? Is a youth phenomenon, in that it is viewed as a form of art for younger people? Does it give a person a criminal stereotype? Etc.)

2)      What are the reasons for Chinese people (in Beijing) wanting a tattoo? Are there any specific meanings behind the types/locations of tattoos? Further, based on a preliminary survey to young people in the United States and based on my own knowledge from social media and research, are the Chinese reasons for wanting a tattoo similar to American reasons? And are the tattooed Chinese viewed the same as the tattooed Americans?

I realize that there are a lot of questions within questions, but the comparative research will really not be very in depth. It will be very preliminary and not a big part of research or time. It is mostly out of personal curiosity that I want to ask it in interview question at all.

For my location I want to find 3-5 good contacts, different tattoo parlors that are within a reasonable distance to the University (no more than 15km). When I get into Beijing I want to contact all 3-5 places and pick 1 (maybe 2 if I’m feeling really adventurous, or if needed) tattoo parlor in which I can make my observations all summer. Pre-Departure, I am going to contact at least 5 places within the 15km distance of the school. My final decision will be based on distance (this will affect my time and funds), location of the parlor within the community (what is it close to? A Business district, restaurants, shopping center, all of these?), and the willingness of the artists/consumers to talk with me. I would like to also be able to conduct interviews on the street asking what passerby’s think of the people getting a tattoo, and the shop owners nearby to see how they view being located near a tattoo parlor. Click here and here to see some maps.

I’ve divided my To-Do List up into two (maybe three?) parts: Pre-departure, On Location, and possibly Back in the States.


-send short survey out to American friends to a small sample of American’s (in my generation) view towards people with tattoos/ personal opinion on getting a tattoo.

-contact 5 or more tattoo parlors nearby Tsinghua to ask about observation. Narrow down to 3-5.

-make a list of interview questions, separate lists: street people/nearby shop owners/ non-tattooed peoples out of the area/ college kids; tattoo artists (figure out personal experience in the industry); tattooed Chinese persons.

-research Chinese tattoo culture

-gather material needed for observations in Beijing: camera/video recording equipment; binder with questions and release forms; notebook and writing materials; sound recording equipment?

-practice polite interview technique: bone up on Chinese vocab (specifically, vocabulary on interviews/tattoos/history of personal experience); rehearse interview questions


On Location

-Go talk to potential observational spots, pick the best 1 (2 if I think I can handle it, or if necessary for research for any reason) based on: distance to school (time/money); willingness of participants; atmosphere of the general area (business cen

ter? Youth hotspot? Older district?)

-conduct interviews of the three categories (street/societal view, artist, tattooed person)

-observe: taking notes, recording, pictures, gathering materials (asking for an artist’s sketch?)

-participate: share my experience, get a tattoo

-more research on Chinese tattoo culture

-put information together into a report

-possible locations: Mummy Tattoo Studio 🙁 (Dual Rights Tattoo Parlor) Shuāng quán wénshēn 🙂 email and address and phone on websites.





Back in USA


-make documentary?


-reflect on information & conclusions gathered

Most Interesting

This is probably the hardest question for me to answer because I’m interested in knowing everything. I want to hear the artists’ stories about how they got into tattooing and why. I want to know how people around the parlor perceive the tattoo shop. I also want to know why people are going in to get a tattoo. What makes it different in Beijing? How is it different from what I experience in the US? How will it affect and shape my time in Beijing?

I know the most exciting part will probably be getting my tattoo that I’ve been wanting for the past two years. 20121106132353_58213( I want a phoenix tattoo, but this one just looked really cool. I want to see someone get an exciting tattoo of artwork)

Potential Problems

I’m worried about over similarizing (sorry that’s not a real word) China and America, and not expecting or having a


n American bias when researching in Beijing. Money, if I have to take transportation may become a problem, time to travel between my dorm and location. I hope I haven’t over extended myself, but I think I can do this! The biggest problem I worry about is not having anyone who is willing to share stories or be on camera for my project or having people not be interested in talking to me at all.