Tattoo ~ 刺青

I saw a highly conflicting scene today. An elderly gentleman with a whole body of tattoos. Yes, a whole body of tattoo. He was in long pants and long sleeves shirt, all in a vain attempt to cover up his foolhardy acts of yester-years. However, his garments could not cover the tattoos on his neck, forehead and feet. I wonder if the elderly gentleman still remembers the stories and meaning behind each of his tattoos?

Tattoos has a very negative place in the history of Singapore. They used to be a form of marking to indicate the origins and status of a triad member. Therefore seniors usually do not have good impression of people who spot tattoos, art form or not. Looking at this elderly gentleman with his aching legs, slow movements and explosive temper (yes, with all the censored beeps!), it seems like he was quite a character back then.

Well-known Taiwanese author Cai KangYong had written such a little blurb on tattoo. A Caucasian classmate of his had tattoo-ed a Chinese character on his right arm. Seeing how Mr Cai appreciated his Chinese character, that classmate rolled up his left sleeve to show off the other character.

The combination of the two character meant “accident”.

Recent years, tattoo have been making a comeback, not as a triad status marking but as a form of art. Many celebrities have also taken to sporting a tattoo. The hottest TV star in Taiwan Ruan JingTian sport a tattoo. According to reports, that tattoo was done when he was at the lowest point of his life. The meaning of it is to have one at the sensitive hips to signify that he had experienced the most painful part of his life. Whatever that might come later would not get him down. His tattoo is “Which way is up”.

I remember reading reports that Alex To had a tattoo on his left arm too. Due to the conservative environment of the entertainment scene back then, his tattoo had raised a big hooha. His chosen design meant Courage.

I knew a single mum. She had a tattoo as well. Rebellious past, pre-marital sex, getting pregnant before marriage, these are not a part of her story. Her story is a typical schoolyard fairytale love story; Getting to know her senior in university, idolization, courting days and marriage; everything is in absolute accordance to the perfect fairytale script. However, there is no living-happily-forever. She was decorated with bruises because of family violence. She choose to divorce after many failed reconciliation and marriage counseling.

Many people wonder why did she choose to tattoo herself, setting herself up to be a bad example for her young child? Her tattoo had a very special meaning. The picture she chose is her child’s favourite Mickey Mouse. This tattoo was done on the day she is very determined to leave her violent husband. This tattoo represents the courage she needs at that point of time.

At that point of time, although she is very sure that she wants to leave him, she is also clear about the fact that her ex-husband would not let her or her child go that easily. It had happened many times before. She said she is leaving, he went into his violent rage and even manhandled her and her child before begging them to come back, giving many promises to change. This is a tattoo to remind herself: she has to be courageous and determined to leave him now.

Some people had a tattoo after careful consideration. Their tattoo carries a life-long message, the remnants of an experience. It is something with meaning they understood. Tattoo-ing is merely a form of expression.

The most ridiculous situation is to get a tattoo based on an exotic tribal culture or foreign language on the spur of the moment without understanding the meaning of it.

Because tattoo-ing is forever. No correction fluid can get rid of it without leaving markings.

今天见到了一个落差很大的景象——一位全身都是刺青的老先生。对,全身都是刺青的老先生。老先生穿了长袖衬衫、长裤,看出他在很努力地遮盖自己的“当年勇”。可是头顶上、颈项与足部的刺青却是很不客气、不留情面地大肆“露脸示威”。不知道老先生还记得每个刺青背后的故事与意义吗?

刺青在我国的历史中有很负面的过去。它是一种黑社会表明“来历”的方式,所以长辈们都非常排斥,因为想当年惹祸犯罪的人都是身上“昂攻”很多的人,也就没有人会把它当成一种艺术来看。这位老先生现在虽然因脚疼而走路非常慢,但是脾气仍然火爆,三字经不断,看来当年他也是“大有来头”的人物。

著名台湾作家蔡康永也在《LA流浪记》中写到他曾经在班上看到一位白种同学的右手臂上刺了一个很有画意的“出”字。同学见他如此懂得欣赏自己的刺青,如遇知己,卷起袖子让蔡康永看了自己右手臂上的刺青。

右手臂也刺了一个汉字——“事”。

近年来,刺青却有了“洗心革面”的现象,不在是黑社会的记号,而是一种艺术与生活了。很多明星也在自己的身上一画来代表自己的一些人生体验与格言。目前在台湾的偶像剧天王级人物阮经天就有一个刺青。根据报道,那刺青是他在自己最潦倒,最失意的时候刺上去的。意义就是把刺青刺在身体最痛之处,代表自己最痛的已经受过了,接下来的都难不倒他。刺青的图案就是“Which way is up”。

记得读过报道说杜德伟也有一个刺青,就在左手臂。当时的娱乐圈较为保守,所以杜德伟为了这个刺青也面对了许多误导自己的年轻支持者的指责。他的刺青设计好像是代表勇气。

我认识一位单亲妈妈。她身上也有刺青。当年的叛逆个性,偷尝“禁果”,以至“珠胎暗结”,这些都不是她的故事。她的故事和一般女性的故事类似——大学认识了学长、崇拜、开始交往、结婚等等,一切都是根据童话式,有结果的浪漫校园恋情。美丽的童话后就是恶梦的开始。家庭暴力让她身上多处常挂彩。她是在多次谈合与婚姻辅导无效后而离婚当单亲妈妈的。

很多人会觉得身为妈妈的她,为什么要给孩子竖立了这么不健康的榜样。这个刺青是别具意义的。妈妈的刺青是孩子最爱的Mickey mouse。这刺青是在她终于下定决心要离开暴力丈夫的那天刺上去的。这刺青代表勇气。

当时候的她虽然知道自己下定决心,但是她清楚地明白丈夫并不会让她这么轻易地离开。之前有好几次都是这样,她说要走,他大发雷霆,甚至对她和孩子动粗,过后又苦苦哀求说会改过。这个刺青就是为了要提醒自己,一定要为孩子勇敢离开丈夫,继续活下来。

有些人是经过仔细的考虑后才决定刺上去的。他们的刺青是一个永恒的提醒、是人生的体会,是他们看得懂的设计。刺青是他们表达的方式。

最可悲的或许就是因为一时兴起而把不知道背景与意思的异族图案刺在自己身体的人。

因为刺青是永恒,是没有立可白可以抹干净的。

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