Tattoo Traditions of Asia: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity

Hardback: $90.00
ISBN-13: 9780824895709
Published: October 2024
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Additional Information

520 pages | 468 color & b&w illustrations
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  • About the Book
  • For millennia, tattoos have documented the history of humanity one painful mark at a time. They form a visual language on the skin, expressing an individual’s desires and fears as well as cultural values, family ties, and spiritual beliefs on the surfaces of the body. The Indigenous peoples of Asia have created some of the world’s oldest and most distinctive tattoos, but their many contributions to body art and practice have been largely overlooked. Tattoo Traditions of Asia is the first single volume dedicated to the anthropological study of an ancient cultural practice and artform that spans many countries and societies, ancestral lands, and contemporary communities across the continent and its islands.

    This richly illustrated survey combines the author's twenty years of fieldwork, interviewing hundreds of Indigenous tattoo bearers and contemporary tattoo practitioners, with painstaking research conducted in obscure archives throughout the region and elsewhere to break new ground on one of the least-understood mediums of Indigenous Asian expressive culture—a vital tradition to be celebrated, an inspirational story told in skin and ink.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Lars Krutak, Author

      Lars Krutak is a research associate at the Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico) and author of Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity and Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, among other books on Indigenous tattoo culture and practice.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Tattoo Traditions of Asia took me on an extremely powerful and informative journey into the past and present of tattooing in Asia. Reading it was an eye-opening experience, one that touched my soul.
      —Kari Barba, tattoo artist and owner of Outer Limits Tattoo, Long Beach, California
    • Lars Krutak has given us a landmark publication, a geographically wide-ranging and historically informed survey of tattooing practices in Asia. In addition to bringing together beautifully a diverse range of sources, he shares insights from two decades of fieldwork and dozens of interviews with Indigenous tattooists and tattooed people—all enriched by a stunning collection of historical prints, drawings, objects, and photography.
      —Sean Mallon, co-author of Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing
    • This is a tremendous feat of research, writing, and decolonization by a renowned scholar of Indigenous tattooing. Krutak’s personal engagement with the cultures he chronicles—including participation in initiation rites—allowed him intimate access to varied tattoo practices, many of which are slipping away. Written with sensitivity and authority, the book marks a major milestone in tattoo ethnography.
      —Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo and The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman
    • Traditional cultural practices are fast becoming endangered due to cross-pollination and westernization. Tattoo Traditions of Asia is an important resource for both those interested in understanding the foundations of tattooing and those who are committed to reclaiming a practice that has been ignored by dominant societies. This is a book long overdue.

      Lohe i kani o ka hāhau, o ia nō i ka leo hāwanawana o ke kupuna—listen to the sound of the hāhau, it indeed is the whisper of the ancestors.


      —Sulu’ape Keone Nunes, traditional Hawaiian tattoo master