Chinese tattoos are becoming more prominent every single day, and there are a lot of reasons for their successful emergence on the body art scene. The rich culture comes with endless seductively attractive icons that are guaranteed to gain prominent recognition from the public.
The calligraphy that comprises Chinese tattoos is linguistically superior to all other written languages.
Each divine character contains a captivating level of depth that naturally showcases a suave personality. Some of these tantalizing letters intrinsically indicate more meaning that complete sentences in English. As a result, this exotic ink format allows for discreet statements and slyly distinct philosophical messaging.
Chinese tattoos may also incorporate existing artwork from the country’s never-ending repertoire of art. The region’s extensive oeuvre of lavish masterpieces can be swiftly modified into beatific ink.
Another avenue for Chinese tattoos involves utilizing quotes from the area’s greatest thinkers. These masters include Lao Tzu and Confucius. Their ingenious ideas are still relevant to modern minds, and they can rapidly strike a chord with the masses.
To illuminate your mind on the uplifting potency of Chinese tattoos, I’ve put together an extensive style guide of examples. Take a look at the samples below to realize your incredible inked destiny.
This full back tattoo features a Chinese Warrior Monk. The artist has created top quality layers in this tattoo, from the gray shaded dot work of the monk’s head through crisp green detail colored into the bamboo that stands out from the black background. The Buddhist Mala beads feature most though, they have been etched in a fashion that makes them literally shine on the skin- a masterful use of black ink and white highlight technical work.
Wow. A spectacular depiction of the Monkey King in battle. This colorful tattoo features a wide array of inks skilfully worked through the image in different patterns and formations to make a body art tapestry. Of particular note, the grey colored, white highlighted clouds are beautifully executed, as are the red and black feather in the lower middle of the tattoo.
Here, the feature image resembles a Chinese New Year Dragon tattooed together with clouds. It uses a great balance of black and gray with some negative space to help creation of the cloud aspect. The use of muted yellow and aqua colors is good, and could be applied more throughout this sleeve tattoo to give it better contrast.
The complexity of dotwork in this Chinese demon tattoo makes for great shadow. It’s intense and time consuming but creates a different feeling to traditional gray scale shading that works well on the limited available space. The red color highlights aid the creature’s sinister look, while the top of the tattoo utilizes Polynesian tribal elements as it incorporates with the subject’s other art.
This is a great piece of Chinese text body art. The font of this leg tattoo is delivered stylishly, drawn out well from the leg with crisp, vivid black ink. The addition of fuzzy black shadow around the text aids the man image pop out from leg, and it’s done in a way not to link it with the subject’s other leg tattoos.
A sweetly deployed calligraphy style Chinese text tattoo. The artist has effortlessly conjured the impression that the body art has been painted onto the inner bicep with horsehair brush rather than tattoo needle.
The shape of this text tattoo belies the clever application of calligraphy style. This inner forearm tattoo looks to have been slashed on with one continuous splash of ink, a difficult feat to achieve using needle and gun.
A bold, complex Chinese dragon. The artist has created different facets to the ink by using clever shading effects in drawing the scales. They’ve also paid great attention to detail too by using a lot of white ink highlights throughout the face, claws, and scales. This intensifies the contrast between black, shadow, and even negative space.
It’s a shame this tattoo is unfinished for this image because it’s building into a compelling full sleeve tattoo. The flow and sheen of both ladies hair standout so far – it’s clear the artist is emphasizing bad ass elements of anime/cartoon style in the line black work. It will likely contrast this part of the tattoo with bright colors in the lantern and robes.
A strongly delivered Chinese text tattoo etched perfectly onto an awkward spot. The artist has done well to make the text flow down the rib cage and on to the subject’s hip without the ink looking stilted.
This is a bad ass full chest tattoo showing a range of cool ides in execution. Love the contrast between the fiery colored leaves and flat, matte, black of the left chest. It works well against the image of the warrior with sword poised and hair blown back by the wind. There’s a tremendous level of detail to elements of his clothing – the filigree of his leather boots is well worked.
The intricately shaded scales make this Chinese dragon tattoo go from a good image to great. The artist has painstakingly creates small scales then colored and shaded each one, giving the dragon a chainmail armor effect, well highlighted by flourishes of white ink and occasionally applied negative space.
This is the human scroll application of Chinese text tattoo. They’re all well drawn, uniformly sized and spaced black filled ink texts. The piece looks like the foreign language flash card found on the wall of tattoo studios, but lacking the translated meaning underneath in English.
An interesting full back Chinese tattoo in black and gray. Traditionally the bull symbolizes perseverance, dedication and hard work, making it a nice focal point for this large scale tattoo that does an excellent job in create shading levels across such a big piece of body art.
This unfinished pair of monkeys will be an excellent finished sleeve tattoo. The juxtaposition between the bright, detailed colors with simple black of the upper arm is a cool expression of contrast that will further improve when the top monkey’s robes are finished.
Wow. This is a rocking Chinese text tattoo. It looks almost like a combination of ink and smoke hovers over the subject’s skin to create a message. Having artful pieces of negative space creating gaps in the calligraphy give the tattoo a unique flavor, and the black shading cutting across the text is reminiscent of a section of the Great Wall.
Adding the hessian bag-like detail into the cross hatches, and a big dollop of splash ink at the end of the text create a spectacular piece of text. Using these additions provides a sense of scale and fills the image up without taking over from the calligraphy’s message.
This stylized amalgam of dragon wrapped around the red faced monkey king makes an arresting tattoo, enhanced by unusual placement. An image like this could be full or middle back, but the artist has limited the tattoo to the far left if the subject’s back, with just the dragon’s snout at the center and wisps of smoke on the right.
The text tattoo in this piece is well supported by the use of pink colored ink in the flower that draws a nice contrast between the fine image and broad, black writing.
The use of water color technique combined with abstract elements help this inner bicep tattoo work strongly. The shading from pink to black, with fine pollen through the middle adds beauty to the flower. Having the ink run streak around the flower gives it a nicely balanced overall aspect.
This foo dog sleeve tattoo is a great bit of body art. What is a foo dog you ask? It’s a stylized creature from Eastern mythology charged with the protection of temples and their surrounds. Foo dogs look like a shaggy mash up of dog, dragon, and demon, so work well aesthetically and spiritually as tattoo inspiration. The eyes, mustache, and teeth in this example are great methods of being able to create different shades and patterns within a standard foo dog image.
Having a more flowing Chinese script over the top of a previous tattoo works for this piece. It seems the black ink writing cover the colored stamp below seems no different to how it goes on a stamped envelope. The result is nothing spectacular but it quite interesting to look at, and the translation may be important to the gist of the body art.
This beautifully rendered full sleeve tattoo uses exceptionally deep black and gray shading to create different layers within the tattoo, beginning with the heavily detailed warrior at the top made to look cast from stone. The tattoo transitions to his horse from here – it’s shaded with thicker technique and moves in a different direction before morphing again to a Chinese castle. The transitional ink uses a great, swirling cloud pattern built with alternating gray and negative space before locking into the solidity of castle’s pattern. Near the wrist, warriors battle below the castle walls in a heaving pile of shadow. This is an epic story tattoo!
The crisply drawn black lines within this sleeve tattoo allow different portions of negative space to form a variety of flowers. The artist has been able to give it the illusion of fill by working within the piece to incorporate the space not tattooed to make images as an alternative to color filler, particular in the top flowers, middle rays of of sun, and lower leaves and flowers as well. It’s a deft way to create a tattoo that’s strength is unblemished skin.
The alternating clarity between two types of Chinese calligraphy works to make this an arresting chest and stomach tattoo. The smaller characters are sharply drawn, think black line work etched with typewriter precision. This contrasts beautifully with the large character that looks like it’s been lazily painted on with a wide, thick brush, and is more art than communication.
Love the central line of this Chinese tattoo. It scrawls down the ‘page’, losing ink before it peters out in an inky realist fashion. Making a tattoo not like a tattoo is a brilliant skill the artist has been able to apply to this artwork.
This is a peerless full back tattoo featuring legendary Chinese General Guan Yu (he was a bad ass that helped China end the Han Dynasty and is hugely popular in Chinese film and literature). It is flawless body art, from the emerald color robe interlocking with golden armor, the stylized swirling gray clouds behind him, all the way down to the broad blade resting near the ground. The level of detail, clarity, and crispness of each tattooed inch makes the price tag sail well over $5000, but for an unforgettable artwork such as this one any price is a bargain.
This is a beautifully drawn, almost minimalist Chinese tattoo. Love how the piece operates within the circular border to deploy water color aspects heightened by unique black ink line work. It’s simple, but hugely effective, even down to the two smudges of white ink used to convey light insight the building.
This text tattoo looks like a parchment list drawn on skin, with the characters drawn in cleanly with single needle black ink.
This cool foo dog tattoo grasps a pearl, not unlike a dragon would. These are enjoyable tattoos to look at because they mix the serious with absurd across every style of ink. The eyes and facial features capture expression with clarity, while the flowing, wave-like beard is another key feature to the success of this half sleeve tattoo.
There aren’t many abstract dragons around. This gray scale tattoo is executed with brilliant commitment to shading and intense detail, however it’s really difficult to decipher as an entire image. The artwork would be more amazing if the subject had chosen a style providing greater emphasis on a recognizable face.
Now, this is a bad ass Chinese dragon tattoo. The artist, by having a large part of the subject’s back left unblemished before etching in the rustic village, creates the impression that the flying lizard is coursing above, waiting to strike. The dragon is a dark, complex piece of tattooing that benefits from white ink interspersed through it to lighten, and sharpen, the details of fang, scale, and claw.
Another Guan Yu tattoo delivered with flawless skill. This one uses sharp black line work balanced by effortless shading throughout to create the full back piece. The detail of his inlaid metal breastplate and dragon flowing down the subject’s left past the General and his magnificent beard are masterful.
Having watched a lot of Chinese and Hong Kong Film, it’s wise to never underestimate the skills of a Warrior Monk. He’s deftly been brought to life in this full back tattoo, with a kindly yet kick ass visage you’d expect to see on the real version. Using the broad, wide face of the monk to then transition into the sinuous, tightly coiled, thinly separated scales of the snakelike dragon helps contrast the facial focal point and balance up the artwork.
This is a cool demon lower leg tattoo that might be a little cross eyed. The use of wide, flowing line work and shadow really accentuates the beast’s nastiness, as do the sharp, little shark-like teeth.
A cool old school dragon. The artist here has effortlessly etched scale after scale into this full sleeve tattoo, and done so in a way that to shade this fellow would dampen his display of skill. Instead of using shadow work to fill the image the tattooist has clever utilized oddly shaped negative space as a well worked alternate filler balance out the dragon’s sliding darkness.
This is a unique calligraphy tattoo that looks like it’s been carved in with blood. Love the contrast between the deft black characters and vivid red spatter, like a Chinese serial killer left a message for detectives at the crime scene.
What does a Chinese dragon tattoo mean?
In Asian cultures the indomitable dragon is one of the most popular and enduring images used in body art. In China, the dragon generally tattoo represents power, strength and wisdom.
Dragons are considered an overwhelmingly positive masculine force in Eastern culture and are linked with rain.
There are nine different types of Chinese Dragon in folklore – also tying in with the powerful no. 9 in numerology. Each of these dragons dragon have different characteristics and personalities that can be translated slightly differently when incorporated into tattoos.
Visually, Chinese dragons can be identified due to their more sinuous look than Japanese and Western Dragons, which tend to be squat and powerfully built. Chinese dragons also have drooping or flared beards around their mouths and fangs.
The Chinese dragon will often be depicted clutching a pearl in its claws or prominently displayed under its’ chin.
What does David Beckham’s Chinese tattoo mean?
Former superstar soccer player David Beckham is one of the world’s most recognizable tattooed men.
He sports a black line Chinese text tattoo running from his left breast down to his hip in a straight line.
It’s a proverb that translates to: “Death and life have pre-determined appointments; riches and honor are from heaven.”