Eastern Dragon Tattoos Meaning and History
“Asian tattoos” quite often makes people think of dragon tattoos. That’s nothing new or odd, since Asian dragon tattoos are quite popular and there are millions of variations and shapes of them. Plus, such tattoos are one of the indigenous tattoos in Chinese and Japanese cultures and they have quite a history.
However, the same tattoo can have different meanings in different cultures. So, depending on the point of view you are taking - Japanese or Chinese - this tattoo can mean different things. Let’s see what these eastern dragon tattoos mean in these two countries.
Japanese dragon tattoos meaning and history
Japanese tattoos are called Irezumi and they are one of the most popular styles in this art, the dragon tattoo being the most popular one. Throughout history, Irezumi began as a symbol of social status, and as spiritual symbols that were usually used as charms for protection. However, with time, tattoos in Japan became a form of punishment, just like in Rome, for prisoners of war, criminals and slaves, to make them more recognizable to the society. Eventually, this practice died away and tattoos became a more positive status symbol once again.
After World War II, tattoos were once again outlawed by the Emperor in order to improve Japan’s image in the West. Again, tattoos took on criminal elements, since they were often connected to the Yakuza, who adopted them as their symbols. However, this didn’t stop tourists and foreigners to be intrigued by Japanese tattoos, especially those depicting dragons.
A common meaning in Western societies for the dragon tattoos is strength, wealth and ferocity. But with Japanese dragon tattoos meaning is different. In Japan, dragons represent generosity, a benevolent force that uses its strength and power to bring good to the mankind. Another trait these mythical creatures carry is wisdom, and because of these positive connotations, they have become one of the most popular Japanese tattoo designs.
Chinese dragon tattoos meaning and history
In Chinese culture, the dragon is believed to be a creature composed of several non-mythical animals. Its head was borrowed from a camel, eyes from a rabbit, horns from a deer, ears were taken from a bull, body, and neck from a snake, its claws look like the ones of an eagle and sometimes it has tiger paws, while its barb and scales are borrowed from a carp. Similarly to the Japanese culture, the Chinese dragon carries the symbol of positive and creative power. It also has supernatural powers and it can command the forces of nature, including earth, fire, water and air. Also, the dragon can be a symbol of the East, West, South, and North, and at the same time, it can depict the underworld, water, earth, and the sky.
So, what made Asian dragon tattoos so popular? It’s their colors and boldness they depict and carry that make people fall in love with these designs. There are numerous designs and shapes of Chinese dragon tattoos and each one of them can carry different meaning, depending on the color and natural element used to surround the design.
For example, with black Chinese dragon tattoos meaning carried is the respect towards elderly and parents. A red Chinese dragon is a symbol for love and passion, for family and protection of children. With a blue dragon tattoo you are depicting harmony and peace, while a golden Chinese dragon carries the meaning of wisdom and soft-heartedness.
Opting for a dragon tattoo?
So, if you wish to have Eastern dragon tattoos you should get familiar with their meaning. It certainly will be a positive one, you just need to figure out what meaning you want to depict and which one fits your own personal and spiritual needs. Just remember how cool the design can look by remembering the Marvel’s popular TV show Iron Fist where the dragon tattoo represents strength, pride and protection.