Body Art and the Asian Culture

Topics: Tattoo, Polynesia, Irezumi Pages: 3 (942 words) Published: June 19, 2009
Body Art & the Asian Culture

Marcie Helman
March 22, 2009

Body art is a definitive and visual part of the Asian culture used to identify social and religious representations. The term tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word tatu, meaning to mark [1]. Throughout history, many cultures have socially acceptable ways in which to showcase their individuality. Contrary to popular belief, in the Asian culture, body modification is typically considered to be distasteful and socially unacceptable. The resurgence and ultimate popularity of the Asian Hanzi and Kanji characters is most prevalent in today's younger generation. However, the significance of Asian characters used in today's modern society is not as symbolic as its ancient representation. In the early 1700's, the Japanese used tattoos as a form of branding as a classification of criminals within their society. Those who bore the mark of dishonor on their foreheads were called Ronin, a masterless samurai warrior[2]. These criminals were believed to be the grass root society in which the "yakuza" was born. The Yakuza felt that because tattooing was painful, it was a proof of courage; because it was permanent, it was evidence of lifelong loyalty to the group; and because it was illegal, it made them outlaws forever. Historians note that this type of punishment replaced the earlier ostracism of nose or ear amputation. These types of punishments are clearly very visible and physical attributes that cannot be shielded or otherwise hidden. The Horis, the Japanese tattoo artist, were the undisputed masters in the use of color, perspective and imaginative design. One of the most intricate and colorful tattoo designs is found in the Irezumi, a culturally Japanese form of the body art. Early Chinese traditions regarding body art is quite surprising given our modern culture and the freedom of expression. It was believed that in early China, the art of Ci Shen and Wen Shen[3], loosely translated means...

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