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Is It Cultural Appropriation to Get a Dragon Tattoo?

Want to get a dragon tattoo but not sure if it is a form of cultural appropriation? Well, then you have come to the right place!

Here you can discover whether or not dragon tattoos are a form of cultural appropriation or not:

Are Dragon Tattoos a Form of Cultural Appropriation?

As dragons do belong to various cultures and literature, a dragon tattoo isn’t always considered cultural appropriation – however, you do have to consider the kind of dragon you are getting, what other details are included in your tattoo, and if you truly understand the meaning behind your ink.

Why are Dragons Not Always a Form of Cultural Appropriation?

The reality is that dragon mythology is quite pervasive. While dragons are commonly linked to Asian cultures such as Japanese and Chinese, these kinds of legends are present all over the world.

Tattoo artist working tattooing

Dragons have been found in Middle Eastern cultures, Greek and Roman cultures, and even Medieval Europe. In fact, the flag of Wales has a large dragon on it. Therefore, to say that dragons as a whole is cultural appropriation is far from correct.

To add to this, dragons are also found in literature such as Beowulf and The Hobbit. Even Shakespeare refers to dragons in some of his plays.

In this sense, dragons are a mythology that belong to many cultures throughout the world instead of one. Due to this, you would have a hard time saying that this mythological creature is a form of appropriation.

When are Dragons Cultural Appropriation?

While you may be able to find dragons throughout the world, these dragons aren’t all the same.

For instance, in Asian cultures such as China and Japan, dragons are often seen as gods or god-like creatures. In Japan, a certain God is believed to be the guardian of the Shinto religion. These creatures are often seen as protectors, too.

In the Middle East and much of Europe, however, dragons are seen as evil beings. This is because they are associated with the serpent which is seen as being a symbol of the devil. As such, the dragon is also seen as a demonic entity.

To add to this, dragons don’t really have as much importance in European history or culture anymore. Whereas in certain Asian cultures, dragons continue to be a revered part of rituals and customs.

Therefore, if you get a tattoo of a dragon based on Chinese or Japanese dragons it may not necessarily seem like a form of appropriation but rather insensitivity. This is because you don’t hold these creatures in the same level of esteem as natives of those cultures.

To add to this, in Japan, dragons have a bit more complex association with culture. In some instances, they are seen as good and others are seen as evil. Not understanding this distinction can also sometimes be seen as a form of insensitivity.

Can Researching Dragon Mythology Make It More Acceptable to Get a Dragon Tattoo?

This is a tricky question to answer. This is because you can get a different answer depending on the person.

Some people may appreciate that you have taken the time to understand the legends and thus to get a more meaningful tattoo. Others, however, may want to guard their culture a little bit more fiercely.

It is also a good idea to be mindful of where you are. If you are a foreigner living in China or Japan or live among people from these countries, it is best to look for a different type of dragon tattoo.

As you can’t guarantee how each person would feel about it, it is best to err on the side of caution and to avoid creating any issues. Of course, you also have the option to get a dragon tattoo in an area that isn’t quite visible to the public.

How to Get a Dragon Tattoo That Isn’t Culturally Insensitive?

It is a good idea to stick with dragons that are based on European myths or on pop culture dragons like those from Beowulf, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, etc.

One of the biggest differences between Asian and European dragons is that the European based ones have wings. The myths surrounding them also have them breathing fire and hoarding treasure.

The girl with the dragon tattoo

The Asian dragons are a bit more serpent like and have a more sinuous physique. The European dragons appear more closely related to lizards.

There are actually more inspiration for such dragon tattoos than most people realize. Go ahead and do some research and you should be able to easily find a tattoo that you like.

If you do want to get dragons based on Asian legends, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is best to get dragons in either blue or red. These are lucky colors whereas black is believed to be an unlucky color.

Also, limit the addition of any other Asian elements in your tattoo as this really would be considered cultural appropriation. At all costs, steer clear of tattoos with any kind of words or phrases written in Chinese or Japanese script.

Not only do these tend to be quite offensive but they also tend to be grammatically incorrect. Unless you are fluent in the written language or know someone who is, this should be avoided at all costs.

Are Dragon Tattoos Considered Cultural Appropriation?

As dragons – and dragon tattoos – are present in many different cultures, the tattoos themselves may not be considered cultural appropriation – however, you should be careful about the design and surrounding elements of your tattoo as these may be considered offensive to some.