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The eastern oriental influences of Chinese calligraphy have a long and rich history in the Western hemisphere. Ever since sailors have traveled east from North America and Europe, Chinese and Eastern Asia culture has captivated western imagination. Sailors have always held lucky object, storytelling, and superstition closely.

Sailors carried Chinese scrolls and jade trinkets for luck. Not only did these hold a superstitious power for them, they also told the story of the sailors travel. It wasn’t long after the introduction of tattooing that sailors carried their luck permanently on their body.

Chinese Calligraphy Tattoo
Chinese calligraphy tattoos also told their story of the exotic ports in China.

Fast forward to today in modern America. The sub-culture of tattooing continues to tell stories with Chinese calligraphy. But in today’s society, tattooing is no longer just a sailor’s pastime. Tattooing is a part of pop culture. Many famous actors and actresses, artists, musicians, and athlete’s sport tattoos. It is their influence on pop culture that has many young adults standing in line to get their first tattoo.

China Daily reports that up to %35 of NBA athletes have a Chinese calligraphy tattoo somewhere on their body. For example, Alan Iverson has “loyalty” tattooed in Chinese calligraphy. Chris Anderson has “The Good” tattooed on one arm, and “The Bad” tattooed on the other. And Shawn Marion has Chinese characters that mean, “The Matrix” tattooed on his body.

But the athletes aren’t the only superstars with Chinese calligraphy inked on their bodies. Britney Spears has a flower with the Chinese symbol for mystery tattooed near her navel. And Angelina Jolie has the passage by Tennessee Williams, "A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages" tattooed in Chinese characters.

When considering a Chinese calligraphy tattoo, one must double and triple check their character’s meaning. One translation for “The Bad” could also mean nausea in Mandarin. So before you get you Chinese symbol tattooed, check with to ensure your Chinese symbol doesn’t have a second meaning.

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