Tattoos of Chinese characters have long been a fad in the West as a way of denoting the mystique of their bearers.
But in a reversal of the trend, Chinese ink parlours are reporting a sudden craze among their clients for tattoos in English.
Zhang Aiping, a tattooist at Tattoo 108 in Shanghai, said: “Around 30 per cent to 40 per cent of our customers are choosing tattoos in English letters now. This has happened really suddenly, since the beginning of this year.
“I just did one a few days ago for a footballer at Shanghai Shenhua club. It said: ‘I miss u forever’.”
Tattoos have existed in China for thousands of years, but have been largely taboo under Communist Party rule.
Only in the last five years have scores of tattoo parlours sprung up, operating in a grey zone of legality.
Chinese clients have been inspired by footballers such as David Beckham and American basketball stars.
Mr Beckham sports a tattoo in Chinese characters, inked on a trip to Hong Kong, which reads: “Death and life have determined appointments. Riches and honour depend on heaven”.
Others have been less felicitous with their choice of Chinese words, with combinations that leave native speakers scratching their heads.
One Chinese tattooist said he had seen a Westerner with the character meaning “gas” on his arm, instead of “spirit”.
by The Punjapit Alliance