The tattoo culture and unique aesthetic have a deep-rooted, religious history in Thailand. The practice of spiritual tattooing, as practiced by monks in Thailand, is a tradition that goes back to ancient times. Thailand is actually the only country to celebrate tattooing as an annual religious celebration. Each year, thousands of tattoo enthusiasts arrive in Bangkok and journey to the temple Wat Bang Phra, located 50 km outside Bangkok. Here dozens of heavily tattooed Buddhist monks are masters of the tattooing art, sharing art and experiences in the epicenter of this cultural and religious tradition.
Left: Wat Bang Phra. Center: Buddhist monk showcasing religious tattoos
The Thai tattooing aesthetic is large comprised of religious imagery and mostly void of color. The black ink often depicts designs that are images surrounded densely by Thai characters and prayers.
Above: Beautiful example of a balanced aesthetic.
The traditional Thai tattooing practice uses a simple, sharpened bamboo stake to deliver the ink. During the process, the monk’s wrist as a blur as he taps away at the stake. During the process a specific prayer is repeated in accordance with the tattoo design being delivered. This is supposed to imbue the recipient with the spiritual power of the tattoo design.
Above: A master tattooing monk delivers a tattoo in
Often Thai soldiers will take on protective tattoos, called Sak Yant. These tattoos are said to have special powers as charms and it’s commonly believed that the correct tattoo by the best tattooing monks could even stop bullets.
Above: Muay Thai boxer with Sak Yant designs
Thai tattoos have found an especially unique aesthetic among fighters in the Muay Thai Boxing culture. Revered as warriors, the Thai boxers receive the Sak Yant tattoos to protect them in the ring.
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