tattoo as taboolistic Sign: dragon on shoulder


“You should not tattoo a dragon on your shoulder because you cannot burden its weight. Eventually it will kill you.”

“The way to eliminate the effect of the dragon on he should is to tattoo a Nezha, or 哪吒 on you. Because Nezha can defeat the dragon, so that will keep you safe.”


My informant is a student at USC. Here is his intepretation of this piece.
“How I take this(tattoo) is like, you are putting a figure onto your body, then it really is on your body. And if you tattoo a dragon on your shoulder, there is a real dragon on your shoulder and you cannot possibly bear it.”


To provide some background, Nezha, or 哪吒 is a mythic figure in Chinese mythology. Nezha is a child that had a pregnancy of 3 years. He had the power to fight the dragon prince in the east sea of China. Eventually, he killed one of the dragon princes. Thus, in the case of the tattoo, putting Nezha as one of the tattoos by the dragon on the shoulder would serve as a suppressor of the dragon.

A tattoo is a sign. A dragon tattoo is a sign that one cannot bear on one’s shoulder. Fortunately, there is a remedy for those who had tattooed dragons on their shoulder without knowing the consequence. This remedy is the conversion of superstitious belief. However, this conversion is no less superstitious.

My informants’ analysis of the piece shows an interesting connection to the folk belief in magic. This tattoo is both contagious and homeopathic under his analysis. It is contagious because tattoo happens on one’s body. It is homeopathic that the tattoo dragon actually becomes a real dragon that kills people, and Nezha actually becomes real and kills the dragon. It’s fascinating isn’t it?