Although every Chinese child is taught the legend of Yue Fei, a 12th-century general whose mother tattooed “serve the country with utmost loyalty” on his back, tattoos were considered disreputable in China for centuries. Imperial courts tattooed criminals’ faces before sending them into exile. By the 1949 revolution, the tattoo was the favored mark of crime syndicates and subsequently condemned by the Communist Party. Today, tattoos remain taboo for many of China’s elder generation, which sneers at the sight of a sun or lotus inked on the back of a trendy neighbor.
...in the last 10 years, hundreds of tattoo parlors have opened in Beijing, and body art has become a language that connects young Chinese across subcultures and cities. “People’s minds have opened up along with the economy,” Mr. Dong said. “Before, all you saw were Mao jackets. Now when you walk down the street you see punks and skaters and they all have tattoos.”