Tattoo culture of Li ethnic group at Expo

By Jessica Zhang
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, August 11, 2010
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The tattoo culture of the Li ethnic group is on the verge of extinction, said Deng Jinghua, director of Hainan Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center. The Li, who mostly live in Hainan Province, is one of China's 56 ethnic groups and has an estimated population of 1.24 million.


Now, the women with tattoos – who were exhibited at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo – may have the last examples of Li tattoo culture. The women are all over 60, with some in their 70s and 80s.

According to customs, women get tattoos of certain patterns in different places depending on their age. Deng said the custom first originated from religious beliefs: ancestors will not accept a woman as part of the family when she died without the tattoos.

Also, women without tattoos will not be considered adults and hence cannot marry.

The Li speak five dialects, so tattoo patterns help distinguish a woman's ethnic group. But the advances of modern society, including improving living standards and cultural mixing, are threatening the ancient tradition.


The tattoo culture of the Li ethnic group was showcased at Baogang Grand Stage in the Expo Garden on Aug. 9. []

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