Oriental is a style that never ceases to renew itself. Its history and the cultural cradle from which it emerged have given it a delicate malleability while still retaining its tangible ego and soul. So many possibilities unfold once you decide to explore this style: hundreds of familiar themes with subjects from Asian folklore and age-old traditions, while the work of countless tattoo artists the world over – and not only Asians – have drawn on this style.

Speaking of oriental, it’s easy to make the mistake of dwelling on Japanese without taking into account the major contribution of other countries and their cultures to tattoo art.

Just think of Tibetan tattoo with its elegant buddhist and spiritual mysticism not to mention the Chinese variations. And far too little importance is at times given to the Chinese tradition, so often echoed in Japanese symbols – the tiger, the phoenix, or the legends which accompany some of the most renowned heroes of Japanese Suikoden.

There are subjects connected with nature – like cherry blossom, peonies, chrysanthemums– and divinities, sophisticated icons whose meaning has been defined over centuries of religious interpretation running through the art. We have masks, and water – so important in the background of the major subjects – and blood, those dramatic red patches often found in Japanese scenes, as well as dragons, demons, geishas and koi fishes.

There is much to learn if you want to come at this style from the right direction and much to know if you are choosing an oriental subject.

No matter what image you take, it comes so loaded with meaning that you run the risk of distorting if it is used in the wrong compositions. So here we want to give you some examples of fine interpretations of a style that is so difficult to pin down and so easy to love.