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Book details
  • SubGenre:Healing / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:128
  • eBook ISBN:9781098371043
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098371036

Immortalizing Emotions: A Chinese Medicine perspective of Tattoos

by Fujio McPherson and Marina Ponton Arena

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Immortalizing Emotion is a basic introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory that helps the reader understand how concepts in TCM can be used to interpret body art as expressions of Qi. From a TCM perspective, Qi (often referred to as energy) exists within and around us, responding in a delicate dance of balance throughout a person's life, influencing not only the health of the body but also the mind, influencing perceptions, and behaviors (like getting tattoos). What makes tattoos so unique is that from a TCM perspective, the stories associated with them, including their placement and design when taken from the wearer's perspective often matches a theory found within TCM.  they often express patterns of qi determined by the condition of the person and the influence of qi surrounding them at the time the tattoo was acquired. Influencing the design and placement, often reflected along meridians (energy channels) that run the course of the body.

Our hope is that by reading and understanding the theoretical concepts of TCM, the reader will better understand and see how the individual stories told by the participants in the latter part of the book reflect this dance. In addition, there is a brief history of tattoos that we hope will recognize and honor the art, the many tattoo artist, and traditions that have been created and enhanced in the traditions and history of body art. 


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) developed over 5,000 years ago and through the many centuries to follow, the basic premise and theories associated with the medicine have never changed. That is because in its most basic form it follows an observation of how the human body is merely a reflection of nature which assumes properties that can and cannot be measured. Behind all of nature's physical beauty, there lies a power that can flourish and provide comfort or destroy and transform, that is expressed based on the ebb and flow of time and influenced by powers beyond the realm or wishes of the individual plant or animal. When defined 5,000 years ago, the simplest definition was to use the term "Qi". Which by definition of the Chinese characters means air and rice. A simple formula that hundreds of years later science would eventually discover as the key to the formation of energy both within and outside of the human body. It is difficult in a single text to explain 5,000 years of theory, however, by writing Immortalizing Emotions we hope to begin the conversation of this ancient form of medicine that may hold not only a window of understanding the human experience but also the expression of perception and behavior through the simple but complex concept of "Qi" and the art of tattoos. There are numerous ways to explain it and to observe it. Yet the art of tattoos not only demonstrates it in a visual and physical sense but also reflects the person's inner perceptions at the time through not only their perspective of the design but their choice of placement as well.

One observation that prompted us to write the book was the placement of the names of soldiers killed in action, tattooed on the inner forearm of soldiers returning from war. From the soldiers perspective, they would often say that the names were placed there to constantly remind them of the sacrifice, to never forget but internally many admit that the loss of a friend under any condition but specifically combat is a constant reminder of the frailty of life and importance of compassion and love or the rejection of it. From a TCM perspective, the placement specifically lies along the Pericardium channel (known as the protector of the heart which is associated with the emotion of joy and love) and the placement is on the innermost and protected (yin) side of the body. Symbolic of the perception connection/compassion and reflective of a specific behavior based on the emotional "Qi" of the person wearing the art and name. By presenting the personal stories of people with tattoos from their perspective and drawing on TCM theory to compare similarities we hope to demonstrate not only the relevance of TCM in the broader interpretation of perception but also to recognize the beauty of art and its healing power. In the U.S. alone the influence and creativity of tattoo artists have evolved as a new renaissance of expression with tattoo artists being sought around the country for their specific styles and talent. We hope to follow this book, with another that will enhance our interest in telling the stories of the artist and the people who seek them out specifically for not only their art and skill but for their ability to create an image that so closely matches the perception and emotions of the wearer and continue to describe it through the lens of TCM.

About the author

Dr. Fujio McPherson, Lieutenant Colonel (US Army, Retired) DAOM, ARNP is currently the director of Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine Institute (aiminst.org) in Olympia, WA. He continues to practice as a Nurse Practitioner in Internal Medicine combining Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and western medicine with a focus on healing and treatment. 

Dr. Marina Ponton-Arena, received her Doctoral degree from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, in Portland Oregon, and has been in private practice since 1998. Focusing on optimizing health through the use of natural medicine and specializing in women's health and emotional disorders.