Thailand Tattoos

Insert Surname 5


1.0History of Thai`s Tattoos (Yantra)

Thai`stattoos have a long history. They were invented 3,000 years ago andwere greatly affected by the Khmer culture. According to Vater, Tomand others (2011 pg. 136), Thailand tattoos were famous after theintroduction of Buddhism religion and associated with both animismand Buddhism (Vater et al., 2011 pg. 144). Most of the poorer regionsand cities in Thailand believed that these animist tattoos posesmagic and wish them luck in their activities. Most of the people inthe ancient times believed that these symbols protected from physicaland ill health provided certain rules were adhered to. These tattoosare in the form of scripts that are a combination of Khmer andBuddhism texts. The Yantra tattoos were mostly drawn on militarysoldiers and Muay fighters (Vater et al., 2011 pg. 135).

1.1Thai`s Tattoos in Ancient Times (1238 – 1438)

Yantratattoo originated from Cambodia. During Khmer ruling (1238-1438), allthe soldiers were covered with these tattoos all over their body.These tattoos come with superstitions and beliefs. The soldiers had atradition and thought that these were meant to protect them as wellas wish them luck while they were at wars. Fig 1 below shows an imageof a soldier during the Khmer. They had tattoos all over the body.

Fig.1 Soldiers tattoo designs (1450)


Astatement by Vater and others (2011 Pg. 114) showed that a Yantrasymbol drawn by the best master would at times stop bullets. Monksmainly chanted these tattoos. Most of these designs resemble Buddhistdeities and temples. They are graphics that composed of dots, and thetiger is the most-popular design. The tiger symbol means that theindividual takes the tiger spirit, and this will guide and controlhis life (Vater et al., 2011 pg. 126).

Thailandis the only country in the whole world that has recognized the tattootradition as a religious ceremony. To signify the importance of Thaitattoos, tattoo enthusiasts gather at Wat Bang Temple in Bangkok oncein a year to celebrate. According to Drouyer (2013 Pg. 73) Buddhistmonks attend these celebrations as they are believed to be themasters of these tattoos. Gifts are given to these teachers asappreciation.

1.1.1Ayutthaya Period (1350- 1767)

Yantratattoos developed in the time of Ayutthaya period (1431). It was wayback in the time of King Somdej and Lokenaat. In AD 31, Ayutthayadefeated Khmer and joined with Sukhothai community. They also adoptedKhemer`s way of governance. Khmer believed in divinity of monarchyand observed the concept of absolute monarchy. Ayutthaya Kingdomadopted this concept for over 417 years of their ruling. Fig 2. Thetattoo below shows a tattoo that were drawn by Ayutthaya kingdomservants. A research by Harris (2008 pg. 85) concluded thatgovernment servants and officials had these tattoos on their wrist tosignify their status.

Fig2. Tattoos of Ayutthaya Kingdom servants on their wrist to signifystatus (1431)


1.1.2Buddhism period (13th– 19thCentury)

Afterthe introduction of the Buddhism religion in Thailand, Thai peopleimproved on the affinity for tattooing these sacred symbols and namedthem Yantra. Most people preferred being drawn on their knees andwhilst. These were Shirt and Trouser-like tattoos that defineddifferent forms in an elaborated manner. The tattoos were mainly forwarriors in the past and during the world wars. Further, Harris, p g112, stated that Thais` were called ghost soldiers due to their manytattoos of the protective nature, and the amulets worn (Harris, 2008pg. 102).

1.2Yantra Tattoos in Modern Times

Atpresent, many people are interested in the design of Yantra tattoosbecause they are believed to bring good luck charm, success in jobsand business and also helps one gain charisma. Moreover, a prominentYantra tattoo master of Thailand, Aj. Kamphai is known for hisdrawing skills made in different countries like Canada, Malaysia andJapan amongst others. According to a report by Swearer (2010 pg.152), master Aj. Kamphai has earned celebrity through mass media liketelevision newspapers and journals. Fig 3. Below shows a tigertattoo. Yantra symbol has also been popular amongst many people aftermaster Aj. Kamphai drew a tiger tattoo on actress Angelina Jolie in2004 (Swearer, 2010 pg. 124). The ideas associated with these tattoosare personal beliefs as there are no evidences to support this.

Fig.3 A tiger tattoo being drawn on Angelina Jolie`s back by Master Aj.Kamphai in 2004



Drouyer,Isabel Azevedo, René Drouyer, and Narisa Chakrabongse. ThaiMagic Tattoos: The Art and Influence of Sak Yant.(ed), Bangkok: River Books, 2013. (p g 74-109)

Harris,Ian Charles, CambodianBuddhism: History and Practice.4th ed. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i, 2008. (Pg 67-117)

Swearer,Donald K. Becomingthe Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand.2nd ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010. (Pg33-156)

Vater,Tom, and Aroon Thaewchatturat. SacredSkin: Thailand`s Spirit Tattoos.11thed. Hong Kong: Visionary World, 2011. (p g 114-150)