Bamboo tattooing is a sacred tattoo tradition that dates back over a thousand years. The art of ‘Sak Yan’ is inspired by religions – Buddhism, Animism and Brahmanism, all practiced in Asia. The belief system is that Yantra tattoos protect the wearer with Magic implemented by the monks who made them. The Thai Army to this day wear them for such, as do boxers and celebrities alike.
Just as the English word for Tattoo, comes from Samoan ‘Tatau’, where tattoos were made 3000 years ago, the word ‘Sak’ has been traced to China through linguistic evidence and moved through south East Asia where it is still practiced today. It’s the same in Thai, Lao, Shan, Lu¨ and Khmer Languages. Showing that this tradition has been used in Myanmar, India, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. The Khmer Kingdom ruled most of this area hundreds of years ago and the Khmer script is found in most Yans.
Bamboo thorns were used as needles by monks, to make for an authentic tattoo experience, but unfortunately not for a technically beautiful one, compared with today’s standards. Some of the designs are magnificent but with a thorn it’s impossible to get the shading capability of the machine tattoos we now know.