Hi I have a Chinese classmate and he has always been very friendly with me, and he talks to me and sends me texts almost everyday. When he heard I was interested in learning Chinese, (even though I am still at the beginner stage.) He straight away offered to give me his skype address so that we could practice together online because he is also interested in improving his English pronunciation. He also invited me to go to a bbq at his house so that he could introduce me to his friends. Things seem to be going quite well.
However even though that all sounds great, there is one problem, he has a tattoo on his arm. I know normally this isn’t a big deal in European countries and USA lots of men have a tattoos. When I introduced him to some other Chinese friends of mine. They were shocked and told me don’t get to close to him, this type of man is not normal. Have you had any experience dealing with Chinese men or women with tattoos?
I don’t really know if this man is normal or not, but I can tell you one thing — tattoos are traditionally NOT considered normal in China. And that has historical roots, as this scholarly paper on Tattoo in China shows:
All of the types of tattoo are usually described [in a Tang dynasty text] as opprobrious; people bearing them are stigmatized as impure, deviant, and uncivilized. There does not ever seem to have been a wide-spread acceptance of tattoo of any type by the “mainstream” society; this was inevitable, partly due to the early and long-lasting association of body marking with peoples perceived as barbaric, or with punishment and the inevitably subsequent ostracism from the society of law-abiding people [Jocelyn’s note — prisoners were tattooed as punishment for thousands of years]. Another reason, of course, is the belief that the body of a filial person is meant to be maintained as it was given to him by his parents.
Tattoos were, literally, the mark of an outsider — someone who existed outside “proper” society. Counterculture types, barbarians, thugs, criminals. Not exactly the kind of person you’d want to bring home to meet mom and dad.
But can a tattoo really brand someone right out of your social circle?
Look, these are generalizations, handed down from generation to generation. That means even if they are true for a lot of people, they’re not true for everyone. I’ve known only a handful of Chinese men with tattoos — all artists, and all pretty nice guys. As tattoos go global — to the point where even one of my very Mormon aerobic teachers with kids has one on her lower back — it’s inevitable more and more young Chinese might choose to go against tradition, just because they want to express themselves.
Instead, ask yourself this: How does this man treat you, overall? What crowd of people does he spend his time with? You’re better off judging this Chinese man by his behavior and friends, and not just the tattoo on his arm.
What do you think?
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