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Tattooing has been a Eurasian practice since Neolithic times."Otzi," the "iceman" discovered frozen in the Tyrol and dated circa 3300 BC was tattooed, as was the mummified male found in the Pasaryk burial whose body was tattooed with stylized animal designs.
Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition.The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, wore unique facial tattoos.Tattooing was widespread among Polynesian peoples, and in the Philippines, Borneo, Samoa, Africa, Japan, and China.Tattoos, particularly full traditional body suits, are still popularly associated with the yakuza (mafia) in Japan; in reality, however, many yakuza members are choosing not to be tattooed to avoid this very stigma.Tattooing has been a practice of almost every known people.In the Steppes, other natural mummies up to 7000 years old have been found to have tattoos.
Tattooing has also been featured prominently in one of the Four Classic Novels in Chinese literature, Water Margin, in which at least two of the 108 characters, Shi Jun and Yan Qing, were described as having tattoos covering nearly the whole of their bodies.
Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were believed to ward away illness.
Throughout history tattoos have signified membership in a clan or society.
It is said that most triad members in Hong Kong have a tattoo of a black dragon on the left bicep and one of a white tiger on the right; in fact, many people in Hong Kong use "left a black dragon, right a white tiger" as a euphemism for a triad member.
It is widely believed that one of the initiation rites in becoming a triad member is silently withstanding the pain of receiving a tattoo the size of one's entire back in one sitting, usually performed in the traditional "hand-poked" style.
Sometimes different words are used for different types of art or different procedures.