Beijing Ink

Toward the end of 2008, I got my first tattoo in Beijing. It is a fairly elaborate piece featuring Sun Wukong (you can see a picture of it here). Since then, I’ve felt things were a bit unbalanced, and planned to get a tattoo on my right side.

I thought about having a tattoo of the Indian version of Sun Wukong (Hanuman) done. I also thought about having a large snake tattooed around my right arm, but my wife killed that idea.

The snake was because I was born in the year of the snake, as where my wife’s parents, my mom, my step-father, and, finally, my son Chong Chong.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Chong Chong’s official name is Su Shao Long, with “Shao Long” meaning “Little Dragon”, which is another way to say snake.

We were having part of the discussion in the dining area, where I’ve got a scroll of a character for dragon hanging on the wall. The scroll was given to me by my friend Huibao, who is a third generation seal carver and calligrapher. Anyway, we agreed that I could get the character transferred to my arm.

An important part of the project was that the character look liked like Huibao had drawn it there. That is, that one could see the brush strokes, splotches, and cast-offs visible in the scroll.

So, with scroll in hand, I headed off with my friend Dan to Creation Tattoo.

The first step in the process of getting the character onto my arm was taking a picture of the scroll.

The image then was reduced and tuned on a computer, before being transferred to a stencil.

Tools of the trade. The tubes and the needles were individually packaged.

With the stencil applied, the inking began. (The printout of the reduced image to the right of my arm was used as a more detailed guide.)

And, here’s the finished work.

Some notes:

  • The cost was 25 RMB per minute of work, at a total of 100 minutes, or 2,500 RMB
  • Although she rarely does tattoos anymore, the owner of the studio was the artist behind my Sun Wukong tattoo
  • I got this latest tattoo on my dad’s 75th birthday
  • I though about calling the post “The Boy with the (Character for) Dragon Tattoo”
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4 comments

  1. wow. thanks for leading us through this, robert. what a remarkable process from beginning to end. had they ever done a tattoo like that before…it is so painterly (calligraphic) and feels like what it is…dragon. i’m surprised it only took 100 minutes. what a creative idea you had sitting next to the scroll. and the “weight” of the marks balance the fine lines and size of the tattoo of sun wukong.

    1. From the way he worked, it seemed like he’d done some sort of calligraphy before. Of course, at this point at least, I’m wearing a one-of-a-kind tattoo.

      Most tattoos involving characters here are done in traditional or simplified script. The gentleman standing in the middle of the first shot had just finished having characters put on his right arm.

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