Through a long journey of Vietnamese history, tattoos had been defined differently in different ages and societies. Despites various meanings a tattoo could hold, Vietnamese traditional tattoo has become such a fascinating topic to not only generations of Vietnamese people but also culture-lovers from all over the world.
ANCIENT STORIES OF VIETNAMESE TATTOO
The earliest time of tattooing in Vietnam dates to the 14th century, fishermen would ink their body to represent the eyes and scales of the monster of the ocean so to protect themselves every sailing day.
The art of body tattooing became incredibly popular in the Ly and Tran dynasty. During those ages, tattoos were a symbol of the aristocracy, and were officially required in order to enter the imperial court. Popular designs at that time were the images of powerful animals amongst men, and birds and flowers for ladies. The more tattoos someone had, the higher social status they could hold.
However, after 1407, that popularity of tattooing declined significantly. During The French colonial period, tattooing brought such opposite meaning, usually colonists inked codes on prisoners for identification, marking them out as law breakers. Unfortunately, tattoos had become an identification system rather than an art form.
TIME CHANGED, PERCEPTION CHANGED
In the 2000s, tattooing slowly started to gain back its reputation but only widely accepted only to these recent years. Today, more and more people become familiar and have more open view to this kind of art, tattoo artists have more opportunity to develop and show their talents amongst national and international contests and festivals. Despites various types of tattooing inspired by different cultures around the world, Vietnamese traditional tattoos are still being favorited by many people not only nationally but also internationally. “Get a tattoo in Vietnam" has been a highlight in the bucket list of many travellers. So what actually defines the beauty of Vietnamese tattoos and why is that so fascinating to a wanderlust soul?
LONG HISTORY & RICH CULTURE
The beauty of Vietnam can’t be simply defined in a few lines. Not only dragon, turtle or crane, Vietnamese lotus, conical hat, Ao Dai also some of very famous tattoos to get once you land in Vietnam.
HUMBLE YET ENCHANTING BEAUTY
Many people already know that Ao Dai is one of the most reputable symbols of Vietnam. Once you love Vietnamese culture, you simply can't forget to mention this traditional costume of Vietnamese women. However, Vietnam is a diversed country with 54 ethnic groups - 54 unique charms. Their hair, their clothings, their ways of celebrating holidays are things that people would love to discover. Each of them carries strong identity and uniqueness that once it's turned into art, it's true form of art!
Foods and drinks are things people crave for once they talk about travelling to Vietnam, and it's cool that anything you would meet in life, would also meet you in a tattoo design! Wouldn't it be fun getting inked your favourite cafe phin or cafe sữa đá, a bánh mì you get every morning or a bow of Phở? A meaningful tattoo doesn't always need to be a big project carrying long story to tell or some mysterious symbols, it could be anything that you found interesting and remind you of something you simply like so much.
It's truly impossible to sum up the beauty of Vietnamese tattoo in an article, you can only absorb it when you spend a lot of your time wandering sites to sites, admiring such humble yet breath-taking views of Vietnam North to South, or after you wander every corner of the old quarter trying all the street foods around. Once you get to know what attract you the most, you can jump on a motorbike and head to a tattoo studio to get a perfect mark for your trip to remember!