Oriental tattoos reflect one’s aesthetics and root. If you love Eastern cultures, these meaningful and stunning oriental tattoos are for you.
Some tattoos are self-expressive. For example, a quote tattoo tells you a lot about the wearer’s beliefs and values. And sometimes, they reflect one’s aesthetics like beautiful flower tattoos or a blackwork mandala. However, there are tattoos that serve as reminders of one’s roots and identity, such as oriental tattoos.
Whether it’s a Japanese painting or a Chinese character, oriental tattoos are tokens of one’s connection to oriental cultures. And what makes oriental tattoos so attractive are not just the lines and colors but also the deep meaning behind them.
So if you come from the east or are passionate about the cultures, these meaningful and beautiful oriental tattoos are for you. From small to big, from black to color, you will find something that speaks to you.
Disclaimer: This tattoo collection is for inspiration only. Please do not copy the artwork. If you love these tattoos, follow artists and show them some support.
Oriental tattoos with meaning
Elegant crane shoulder tattoo
Cranes represent longevity and elegance. In Taoism, cranes are often seen as a symbol of divinity. They represent those not bound by materials and have high moral standards and self-discipline.
Cranes on waterlilies
Waterlily represents purity and innocence. It’s usually in pink or white. Though blooming from dirt, it’s never contaminated. In this stunning tattoo, the cranes are standing on the waterlilies. Together, they create elegant imagery that is perfect for art lovers.
Cherry blossom and crane tattoo
Cherry blossoms have various meanings in oriental countries. For example, in China, the flower represents love and romance. It’s also the national flower of Japan. And there, the flower symbolizes life and awakening.
Japanese Ukiyo-e omamori tattoo
Ukiyo-e is a Japanese art style. It means pictures of the floating world. Though it was trendy during the 17th to 19th centuries, the style is still popular worldwide.
Also known as The Great Waves, The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a classic Japanese Ukiyo-e painting. The roaring waves form a circle in the original painting, framing Mount Fuji in the center. In this oriental tattoo, Mount Fuji is not visible. But we can still feel the tremendous power of nature.
The painting tattoo is framed in an omamori – a traditional Japanese amulet. It is usually sold or sent out in Japanese temples. And together with the painting, the tattoo creates a balance of divinity and liveliness.
Japanese Ukiyo-e painting
Another Japanese painting tattoo. Though the Ukiyo-e paintings mainly focus on beautiful women in traditional Japanese clothing, there are also a vast collection of landscape paintings. And this tattoo is one of them.
The whale in the imagery is jumping out of the water, creating giant waves that flood the mountains. The sun in the background is red, which balances with the cold color tone in the foreground.
Ukiyoe fan tattoo
Yin and Yang ink wash tattoo
Yin and Yang are two essential concepts in oriental cultures. In Chinese, Yin means feminine, and Yang means masculine. People in the east believe that a person and a place should have a healthy Yin and Yang in order to be balanced.
This black and grey tattoo depicts a classic Yin and Yang symbol. But instead of using rigid lines, the tattooist paints the symbol in irregular soft lines, mimicking ink dropping in water. As a result, it creates an illusiveness and makes the entire design flow.
Yin and Yang flower tattoo
Red spider lily and dragon shoulder tattoo
Across cultures, dragons have different symbolisms. In western countries, dragons are seen as disastrous and evil. They destroy villages and burn cities to the ground. In eastern countries, however, dragons represent royalty or divinity.
For example, only the emperors could use dragons in their clothing and home decorations in imperial China. This red dragon tattoo has beautiful curves and glows. The red spider lily represents a dangerous attraction. Together, the two elements create a perfect badass feminine tattoo.
Haku dragon tattoo
Haku is a character in the Japanese anime Spirited Away. He has two forms: a boy and a dragon. In his dragon form, his body is pure white with emerald hair. The color combo gives him a sense of divinity as he was initially a river god.
Black phoenix tattoo
Foo dog tattoo
Also known as the Chinese guardian stone lions, Foo dogs are imperial Chinese architectural ornaments. They are usually placed on both sides of the porch of palaces, tombs, or banks. They are considered to be powerful and protective.
This Foo Dog tattoo by tattooist Nonlee is unique, not just because of the details. In our interview with Nonlee, she said that the rustic colors were perfect for classic oriental tattoos like this one. And the result is stunning.
Foo Dog tattoo
Qilin is known to be the Chinese version of a unicorn. They are both legendary creatures in mythology. And they both look like horses. The difference is that unicorns only have one horn, while Qilin is believed to have a pair of horns on the forehead.
In imperial China, Qilin was considered a symbol of divinity and royalty. They were said to have shown up at the birth and passing of Confucius in Chinese folklores. Such a detailed and meaningful tattoo will belong to someone who understands the culture deeply.
The Black Tortoise arm tattoo
In ancient Chinese astrology, the universe was divided into four parts. Each of them was represented by a symbol – Black Tortoise represented the North, Azure Dragon the East, Vermilion Bird the South, and White Tiger the West.
This is a tattoo of the Black Tortoise, a tortoise with an intertwined snake. Both of the animals represented longevity and were worshipped as divine creatures.
Buddha hand gesture tattoo
Buddhism has a profound influence worldwide. And it makes sense for Buddhists to tattoo their faith on their bodies. However, in some countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka, Buddha head tattoos are forbidden, even for tourists.
That’s why if you want a tattoo to represent your religious beliefs, Buddha hand gestures are a better option.
Tiny Buddha hands nape tattoo
Vitaka Buddha hand gesture tattoo
Small oriental amulet tattoo on the back
Amulets and talismans function as lucky charms. They are thought to be able to ward off evil energies and protect the wearers.
In this tattoo, the flowers popping out of the amulet create motion in a static design. And it’s perfect for girls with traditional oriental aesthetics.
Oriental floral amulet
Happiness Chinese letter tattoo
In traditional Chinese, 囍 means happiness. It is used in traditional Chinese weddings as a symbol of happy marriage.
Chinese calligraphy arm tattoo
Calligraphies are an important form of Chinese art. These four characters embody wildness and strength in each stroke. Together, the words mean to have fun while you can, similar to Carpe Diem.
Chinese ink wash landscape tattoo
Ink wash is a type of ink brush painting in China. In this style, the painters paint with ink in different shades of black. They might not pay close attention to every tiny detail of an object. Instead, they focus on using different weights to convey the spirit of the entire painting.
This forearm landscape tattoo is a classic ink wash artwork. While it might not be the most sophisticated artwork, it created a serene, tranquil village view on the skin. And that’s the essence of the art form.
Chinese ink wash painting landscape tattoo
Unique tiger ink wash tattoo
Tigers have various meanings in eastern cultures. In China, it represents strength and leadership. And in Japan, it is believed to be a symbol of peace and the samurai. This black tiger tattoo vividly captures the feisty spirit of the beast, making it a perfect representation of one’s willpower.
Tiger and dragon painting sleeve tattoo
Dragon and temple tattoo
Many elements can represent a culture. Architectures are one of them. The temple in this duo-color tattoo is intertwined with a red dragon, giving it a unique feeling of oriental mystery and sacredness.
The Forbidden City fan tattoo
The Forbidden City used to be the home of Chinese emperors. This fan tattoo captures a corner of the palace. And with the moon in the sky, it is no longer solemn or unapproachable. Instead, it becomes more attractive and romantic.
Super cute panda tattoo
The panda is seen as a symbol of peace and friendship in China. And as a tattoo, it reveals the root of the wearer adorably. Besides, who doesn’t love these fluffy cuties?
Matching koi fish tattoo
Koi fish or koi carps symbolize wealth, fortune, and fame in eastern cultures. But people love koi fish tattoos not just for the meaning but the look as well.
Koi fish tattoo
Feminine butterfly tattoo
Butterfly tattoos are loved worldwide. They represent reincarnation and strength. And in the east, butterflies symbolize purity and love. Sometimes they are seen as the spirits of lovers. This beautiful butterfly tattoo with a red string attached reveals the wearer’s pursuit of love and beauty.
Oriental fan art tattoo
Paper folded fans were widely popular accessories in the east. The patterns on the fans often showed the value and style of the owners.
Snakes might be an evil symbol in the west. But in China, Japan, and other eastern countries, snakes were described as powerful and sacred in legends and folklore. People associated snakes with the force of nature. And sometimes even worshipped them as gods.
Cotton flower shoulder tattoo
Cotton flowers might not have vibrant colors like roses. But they have immense significance in both our lives and the economy. These uncommon flowers were from ancient Egypt, but they are now grown worldwide with different symbolisms. For example, in Korea, the cotton flower represents the love for mothers. And in Japan and China, they are reminders to cherish the people around us.
Lotus flower symbol tattoo
Though it’s not a common flower in a shop, the lotus has been an important cultural and religious symbol worldwide, especially in eastern countries. In Buddhism, the spiritual meaning of lotus is calmness. Such a symbolic lotus tattoo in the middle of the chest reminds the wearer to find inner peace in chaos.
Red spider lily
In Japan, the flower is named Higanbana, which means the other side of the Sanzu River.
In Japanese folklore, the dead crosses the river to reach their afterlives. Thus the Japanese associate the flower with death and use them in memorials of their ancestors.
But people love red spider lily tattoos not just for their symbolism but also for their gorgeous appearances. When they bloom, the petals turn outwards like the claws of a spider. So for those who want to add danger and mystery to a beautiful tattoo, red spider lilies check all the boxes.
Oriental ink lotus tattoo
When we talk about oriental tattoos, we often think about large landscapes, tigers, or dragons. But what’s fantastic about flowers as a cultural symbol is that they fit in smaller areas.
Which of these oriental tattoos is your favorite?
Leave a comment down below and share your thoughts!