Since we’re doing this, it’s a good time for another tattoo post!

Mine is less than a month away (eek!). So I did some research the other day on tattoos in Chinese culture and stumbled upon these fascinating tidbits about the women of the Dulong, Dai, and Li tribes:

Chinese Tattoos among Chinese Minorities

Although tattooing does not have a strong tradition among mainstream Chinese, many Chinese minority groups have much stronger tattooing traditions. Strongest among these are the Dulong and Dai tribes, along with the Li people of Hainan Island.

Dulong Tattoos

Tattooing among women of the Dulong group, who live along the Dulong River, dates back to the Ming Dynasty some 350 years ago. During this time the Dulong were under attack from many of their neighbors, and the women would often be taken as slaves.


The Dulong women began tattooing their faces in reaction. It was thought that the tattoos would make them uglier and less likely to be raped. This tradition has continued into modern times despite the fact that the Dulong are no longer under attack from neighboring tribes.


At the age of 12 or 13 all Dulong girls are tattooed on their faces. This is a rite of passage among Dulong women and is seen as a sign of maturity.

Dai Tattoos

The Dai people of China have an ancient tattooing tradition. Both men and women among the Dai are tattooed. Dai women are generally tattooed on the backs of their hands, their arms or have a small dot tattooed between their eyebrows.


Among Dai men tattoos are seen as a sign of strength and virility. Generally tattoos will be made in such a way as to accentuate and draw attention to their muscles. Although there are no fixed traditional designs among the Dai people, most commonly the tattoos will be of a ferocious beast such as a dragon or a tiger.


In ancient times Dai tattoos were given to young children of the ages of 5 or 6, however it grew to be more common to be given about the ages of 14 or 15, sort of a rite of passage into adulthood. Tattooing among the Dai is still practiced to this day.

Li Tattoos

Tattooing also has a long standing tradition among the Li people of Hainan Island. Most commonly tattooing among the Li people, like those of the Du Long, are practiced among the women. Men have been known to have three blue circular rings tattooed on their wrists for medicinal purposes, but other than that the tattooing is among women.


Like both the Du Long and the Dai, the art of tattooing among the Li is seen as a rite of passage into maturity and adulthood. A Li girl is tattooed sometime during the ages of 13 or 14. The girl would first be tattooed on the nape of the neck, the throat and on the face. This process would take about four or five days.


Over the next three years, the girl would then have her arms and legs tattooed. Her hands were not tattooed. Among the Li only married women could have their hands tattooed, it was not appropriate for single women to wear them.

Li tattoos differed greatly among the different Li tribes, and could be easily used to differentiate between a woman of one tribe and another.


During the 1930’s a German ethnologist Hans Stubel studied the Li people, and wrote extensively of their tattooing practices. It is mostly from his work that our understandings of their tattooing customs come from. During his day few still wore facial tattoos, tattooing was primarily of the arms and legs. Today hardly anyone in Hainan sports the traditional tattoos of the Li people save a few elderly women.

The rest of the stories are here:…

Feel free to talk about your ink, artists, or fun facts.