Jeanne Sun, tattoo artist and owner of Jeanne Tattoo Studio, works on a tattoo. Sun said for her, tattoos are meant to be a piece of art and not a simple image replicated from someone else’s tattoo. The 32-year-old gets to know customers before developing a tattoo unique to them. Provided to chinadaily.com.cn
For Tianjin native Jeanne Sun, like many other young Chinese, it was exposure to Western culture that gave her a permanent impression about tattoos. Soon she was using her mother’s eyebrow tattoo tools and practicing on her friends.
"We watched some music videos from Europe and the United States. All the band members had tattoos and we said, 'We need a tattoo'," said Sun, who played piano in a goth band when she was 16.
The 32-year-old's petite frame is now a collage. The artwork flows across her back, over her left shoulder, down her arm and across her leg.
At age 18, she opened her hometown's first tattoo shop and now owns Jeanne Tattoo Studio in Beijing's Gulou district.
Her trajectory mirrors the growing popularity for body art in China and the culture and industry that surrounds it.
Wang "Kisen" Qing Yuan, the director of the China Association of Tattoo Artists, said there were 200 known tattoo artists in the country in 2002. Now he estimates there are around 2,000 tattoo parlors and 400,000 tattoo artists in China.
According to Wang, tattoo culture is developing fast and fighting against a history tainted with negative stereotypes.
Tattoos, which go back thousands of years in China, were once affiliated with criminals and seedy segments of society. These days, Western culture and tattoo-covered celebrities have pushed trendy youngsters to turn to the art form, but China’s older generation still turn up their noses.
Li Muzi, a 30-year-old marketing employee, said his parents didn't approve when they found out he was getting his first tattoo.
"As they learned more about tattoos, they learned to accept it," Li said.