Tattoo Designs

Chinese Tattoos


I once saw a Caucasian woman with a Chinese tattoo of ‘love birds’. She thought it referred to a type of bird, but when read in the Chinese context, it meant either she loved birds or she was a bird lover! With a dirtier connotation, “bird” can refer to the male reproductive organ.


It is crucial for Westerners who want Chinese characters on their skin to know what it really means, both literally and figuratively. Westerners may be wowed by Chinese calligraphy, but a little mistake may have you end up looking like a fool. Also note that Chinese and Japanese are not the same. Some characters are shared between the languages, but most of them have different meanings because of the cultural contexts.

For those considering a Chinese character tattoo, consult a Chinese speaking tattooist. Unless you want to be the victim of a practical joke, it’s important to ensure the accuracy ahead of time because tattoos are permanent making removal painful. Tattoos with just the characters can look rather boring unless the calligraphy is skillfully done, which is difficult unless the tattoo artist has been formally trained in calligraphy. It takes years of practice to turn writing into an art form.

I suggest combining the characters with common Chinese symbols to improve the impact. Phoenixes and Dragons are very common elements in the Chinese arts as the symbolize power and luck; the phoenix is a good symbol for women while the dragon is better for men. The twelve animals of the Zodiac are also a good idea, or possibly find a symbol from the Buddhist or Taoist traditions.