Getting a Tattoo in China:

So you’re travelling to China, or maybe living there short term like myself, and you want to get a tattoo. This might be a more different experience than you’re used to in Western countries, and it’s good to do your research.

Some flash on the walls of Sick Rose

I’m living in Shenzhen, but travelled to Shanghai for a week, where I was tattooed by Kai at Sick Rose Tattoo.

Kai drawing up my dragon head.

Before getting to Shanghai, I found Sick Rose on Instagram so I could check their quality of work, and I was very happy with what I saw. All of the artists there are professional and do quality work! The shop mainly deals with old school style pieces. Strong bold lines and bright colours that will last a lifetime.

Cute shop cat

I messaged the shop before arriving and talked to Kai to make sure I could do a walk in. Sometimes you may want to actually schedule an appointment if you have a specific day in mind, but if like me you need to keep your schedule open, then make sure the shop takes walk ins. 

Dragon head hand drawn by Kai.

If you don’t speak Chinese then it’s also important that the artist you go to can speak some English. Everyone at Sick Rose speaks English and they are all very friendly. Kai was very professional and a soft spoken guy. 

Stencil ready to go on my ribs

I had my ribs tattooed, which took around three hours, and he made it as good an experience as possible, considering the painful placement. I also had one of the shop cats sleeping on me for most of my experience, which was a good distraction. Back in the West cats wouldn’t be allowed into shops, but here in China you come to expect the unexpected. The shop did follow all other health protocols, such as using new needles and ink, and wearing gloves the whole time. This is important to check as I know many shops in China don’t follow Western health standards as closely. Since Sick Rose followed everything else by the book I was able to overlook the shop cats since I had followed them for so long and seen the healed results, with no issues. On day four now and my own piece is healing nicely. 

Finished product next to my stomach piece.

I highly recommend Sick Rose and Kai if you are in Shanghai! Always be sure to thoroughly research a shop before going, especially when visiting another country. Happy tattoo collecting!

Close up of the finished piece!
One more shop cat sleeping on another client getting her elbow tattooed.
Check out Kai’s Instagram at  https://www.instagram.com/kai.tattooer/

Artist of the Month: Jimmy Ho

Jimmy Ho is a tattoo artist in Hong Kong. Jimmy has had his own shop since he was 14, and was tattooing before that, thanks to his father, James. His father opened Hong Kong’s first tattoo shop in 1946 called “The Rose Tattoo”, and by 1950 the shop was working non-stop to fill the demands of American soldiers getting tattooed. Jimmy has had his own shop since 1958.

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An in progress pic of chest panels and half sleeves done in traditional Chinese style.
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Jimmy tattooing a dragon onto Chinese movie star Michael Chan in the 1970’s.

Jimmy started tattooing sailors at night before he was 14, when his fathers shop was technically closed. He wanted to help out and make some money so he started doing them himself, and has been tattooing ever since.

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Three Chinese dragons.
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Tiger flash from 1983

During the Korean war he and the other artists at his father’s shop would tattoo 30-40 men per day due to the high demand. Jimmy would tattoo soldiers everyday from 11am until 4am, non stop.

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Chinese dragon as a full back piece.
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Raijin and dragons done in 1984 or 85.

Jimmy has his own style, modelled after his fathers. A mix of traditional Chinese and American traditional, but specializing in dragons.

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Dragon and lady done in 1975.
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Beautiful forearm dragon piece.

Jimmy still tattoos, but most of the pictures on his Instagram are from the 70s-90s if you’re trying to find a portfolio.

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Chinese movie star Andy Lau in 1997.
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Sign for Jimmy’s tattoos in Hong Kong.

There are some differences between Chinese and Japanese dragons, as you’ll see in Jimmy’s work. His dragons usually have 4 claws, which was used in ancient Chinese history for high ranking officials and nobility, while the 3 toed dragons were for common people, as well as the Japanese.

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Eagle and mudan flower from 1982 or 83.

If you can’t make it all the way to Hong Kong for a tattoo you can always get some of Jimmy’s flash off of big cartel here.   tattooflash.bigcartel.com

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Jimmy with some of his flash that you can buy on big cartel.

Artist of the Month: Zhuo Dan Ting

Zhuo Dan Ting is the owner of Shanghai Tattoo as of January 2007 (located in Shanghai, China) where she tattoos people from all around the world. People seek out her art from far and wide, and are not disappointed with the results.

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Black and grey baby portrait.
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Realistic elephant half sleeve.
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Black and grey bio mechanical sleeve.

Zhuo Dan Ting has been an artist since an early age, where her father (an art teacher himself) and his friends would teach her new techniques. She went on to art school in Harbin after high school, but quickly moved onto something entirely different.

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Black and grey Asian leg sleeve featuring Fu Dog, peony, and great wall of China.
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Bio mechanical/ripped skin/ realism back piece!
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Bright dragon and flower half sleeve.
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Amazing realistic Greek Poseidon sleeve.

Ting found the subcultures of death metal and punk music, which is where she fell in love with tattoos. Ting started off tattooing her friends in Harbin’s underground music scene, where she quickly started making a name for herself in the tattoo world.

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Full black and grey realistic sleeve with monster, lightning, waves, etc.
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Ting doing her thing, tattooing a painful chest piece!
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Surrealist color sleeve with angel, skull, and watercolor.
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Color realism owl, skull, and eyeball half sleeve.

Ting does brilliant black and grey, photo realism, portrait art, and Asian styled pieces inspired by both Chinese and Japanese art. Along with making beautiful art, Ting was also the first woman in China to open her own tattoo shop, a big step for the Chinese tattoo community!

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Black and grey Monkey King half sleeve.
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Realistic color eye.
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Brilliant Japanese style peony flower.
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Realistic Japanese/Chinese style dragon sleeve.
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Realistic portrait.
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Terrifying zombie clown portrait.

If you’re in Shanghai, Shanghai Tattoo is the place to go!

Foo/Fu Dog Tattoos:

Foo, or Fu Dogs as they are known as in the West are Chinese lion guardians called Shi. These creatures are both guardians and good luck charms. When placed outside buildings they are meant to protect those inside from negative energy and to stop those with intent to harm from entering. These ancient symbols have been around since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD).

foo Alex T. Frazer at Bravest Kids Tattoo, Manchester UK
American traditional Foo head by Alex T. Frazer at Bravest Kids Tattoo, Manchester UK.
foo Andy Pho at Skin Design Tattoos
Realistic Foo statue done by Andy Pho at Skin Designs Tattoos.
foo Danh Vu at Inkman Tattoo in Brooklyn NY
Huge rib piece with Foo and flowers by Danh Vu at Inkman Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY.

As a tattoo this creature is also meant to be protective. Keeping the wearer safe from harm. This creature is also tattooed to be a representation of the wearer’s strength, courage, and heroism.

foo David Hoang at Chronic Ink Tattoos, Toronto
Realistic stomach piece by David Hoang at Chronic Ink Tattoos in Toronto.
foo Tristen Zhang Chronic Ink Toronto
Back of neck foo by Tristen Zhang at Chronic Ink Tattoo in Toronto.
foo Hori Taka Kyoto, Japan
Brilliant Japanese backpiece by Hori Taka in Kyoto, Japan.

Foo dogs are firstly a Chinese tattoo, but are also associated with Japanese tattoo’s and can be incorporated into Japanese pieces. They are often also done as black and grey pieces, American traditional, and realism pieces.

foo Horiei Shinsu, Matsumoto City, Japan
Golden foo and daruma doll and flowers by Horiei Shinshu in Matsumoto City, Japan.
foo Jin Q Choi at Seoul INk Tattoo Studio
Foo and flower chest piece by Jin Q Choi at Seoul Ink Tattoo Studio.
Foo Kentzho Starbrade at Black Bamba Ink and Orc Tattoos
Black and grey foo by Kentzho Starbrade at Black Bamba Ink and Orc tattoos.
foo Steve Black at All of One Tattoo Studio
Forearm filler foo by Steve Black at All of One Tattoo Studio.
foo Sue Kidder Old Ironside Tattoo, Honolulu
Foo head chest piece by Sue Kidder at Old Ironside Tattoo, Honolulu.
foo Yan Jingdiao in China
Bright foo sleeve by Yan Jingdiao in China.

Foo dogs are often placed on hands, with the head fitting perfectly, lining up with the knuckles.

foo Anna Waychoff at Powerhouse Tattoo
Blue foo by Anna Waychoff at Powerhouse Tattoo.
foo Brian Donovan at Davidian Tattoo Studio
Red and blue foo head by Brian Donovan at Davidian Tattoo Studio.
Foo Nicolas Malagon Casas in Columbia
Black and grey foo with a third eye done by Nicolas Malagon Casas in Columbia.
foo @pandern8er at Main Street Tattoo Collective
Colourful hand foo by @pandern8er at Main Street Tattoo Collective in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Foo Dog’s make a brilliant and powerful tattoo for those seeking protection and good fortune.

Monkey King Tattoo

The Monkey King is a Chinese story based on a real monk who walked on foot from China to what is now India to recover the true Buddhist holy books. When he returned to China he translated the Sutras into Chinese, contributing to the development of Buddhism in China.

monkey king James Acrow
Monkey King full sleeve by James Acrow at Slow Down tattoo in Vancouver.

Monkey king is the story of this monk, mixed with Chinese legends, fairy tales, supernatural stories, and popular beliefs. Monkey King is a rebellious being, born out of rock that was fertilized by the grace of Heaven and Earth. He is very intelligent and has magical powers learned from a Taoist master. He can transform himself into different beings such as trees, birds, beasts, and insects. He can travel by riding on a cloud, and can shrink or grow by using a metal rod he steals from the Dragon King after fighting him in the ocean. The Monkey King is a mischievous character who fights many battles, travels to heaven, and comes back to earth. He is trapped under a mountain for 500 years, and after being freed, must travel with the monk to ensure his safety on his journey West to the Sutras, accompanied by a pig, a sea monster, and a horse.

monkey king Adam Sky Rose Gold's Tattoo, San Francisco
Monkey King Sleeve by Adam Sky at Rose Gold’s Tattoo in San Francisco. 
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Amazing black and grey back piece done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Realistic Monkey King done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Incredibly detailed sleeve done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Half sleeve Monkey king done at Chronic Ink tattoo.
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Half sleeve Monkey king done at Chronic Ink tattoo.

There are various versions of the Monkey King story, and all are very interesting and amusing.