The man in the photo, Zhou Xiaodong, is one such person. He’s a tattoo artist. Perhaps I should say artiste because Zhou is definitely at the upper end of the tattoo world. He travels overseas to teach and apprentice. Foreigners travel to China just to get his designs inked on their skin.
His Munaiyi (Mummy) studio is on Beijing’s Xindong Lu in a modern high-rise building with panoramic vistas of the city. There, you find those reclining dental chairs to make it comfortable to get the tattoo. On the walls are posters of tattooed Maori warriors, international forums on tattooing and plenty of Zhou’s own art work.
I just did a story on tattoos in China, which you can see here. There are perhaps hundreds of tattoo parlors in Beijing now.
Zhou spent eight or nine months studying in Japan, and has been doing tattoos for more than a decade. His website is impressive. But here’s what he said when I asked him about the legality of what he’s doing:
“It’s a pitiful thing. I don’t have an identity even though I’ve been doing it for so long. I don’t think it’s possible for me to get a license but it’s impossible for the government to forbid it.”
Zhou, like many Chinese entrepreneurs, keeps one eye looking over his shoulder.