The Face of Modern China: The Undiscovered Tattoo Scene in Shanghai

The Face of Modern China: The Undiscovered Tattoo Scene in Shanghai

By Melissa Hellmann

Shanghai Tattoo

Shanghai Tattoo, another great example of good tat shops in Shanghai, has been around for nearly six years. The studio boasts some of the best tattoo artists in the city, with Zhuo Dan Ting, the leading lady in the shop, Xiao Zhang, Yi Xiu and other guest artists. The studios' commitment to progression and diverse styles is evident in their plans to welcome artists from around the world who specialize in different techniques.

The studio prides itself on its commitment to great quality, unique artistry and high standards for hygiene. Although the studio doesn't judge a collectors' choice in tattoos, the artists insist on delivering original art: the only three tattoos that the studio will not do are Hello Kitty tattoos, bar codes or arm bands. It's important for the shop to create unique artwork that the tattoo artists and the customers are proud of, rather than replicating a print out from a standard tattoo design website. "You don't want to be a tattoo technician, you want to be a tattoo artist," says shop manager Dylan Byrne.

Shanghai Tattoo also works very hard to dispel the negative connotations about the low hygienic standards attributed to some parlors in Shanghai. Everything used in the shop is disposable besides the machine; the studio also follows California standards with both Ting and Xiao Zhang qualified to tattoo in the Golden State.

Zhuo Dan Ting of Shanghai Tattoo

Despite the limited methods for dialogue amongst the varied tattoo studios in the city, Shanghai Tattoo attempts to create a community vibe in their own shop. It is the tattoo studio equivalent of a rock star’s backstage room stocked with beer on ice. Dylan wants people who are waiting for their friends to have a place to sit down, drink a Qsing Tao, play a game of pool and watch a flick. Sub-Cinema, which shows movies every Tuesday night at Dada, collaborated with the studio to make Sub-Cinema X. The shop screens movies that are too suggestive or esoteric for Sub-Cinema to screen at Dada. Sub-Cinema X shows movies in a small, dimly lit back room of the shop with dark bean bags grouped tightly together and a Bart Simpson statuette residing at the head of the room. He wants the shop to be a hang out spot for tattoo artists, customers and admirers. Dylan mentions plans of summer parties on the terrace involving barbecues, skateboards and punk rock DJs.

The increasing acceptance of tattoos in Shanghai indicates the presence of modern China. As evident by Boobies and Shanghai Tattoo, Shanghai has extremely talented artists who are dedicated to their work. But a tattoo shop alone can’t create a community or a scene. Every work of art needs a community to draw inspiration from, and people receiving tattoos in China shouldn’t have to be concerned about the health standards of the studio. A tattoo scene in Shanghai could help raise awareness by advocating proper hygienic standards and high quality tattoos across Shanghai.

Boobies Tattoo & Art
Jiashan Market, 
B201, No.25, 550 Shanxi Nan Lu 
3530 5271
Shanghai Tattoo
4/F, 1 Maoming Nan Lu, 
near Yan'an Lu 
135 8594 4558

Melissa Hellmann is an Associate Editor for Shanghai Expat. She would like to thank Toru from Boobies Tattoo & Art and Dylan from Shanghai Tattoo for the kindness, coffee and beer. She currently has five tattoos but would like to get another one in the near future. If you have any questions or comments about this article please send an email to: