Tiger Chinese Zodiac Tattoo

The tiger zodiac sign is the third animal in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. It is a extremely popular animal for both the Chinese and Westerners for many reasons:

  1. It is one of the most recognizable animals in the world
  2. It is an apex predator and is associated with independence, power, and ferocity
  3. The tiger is used extensively to represent nobility, status, and military presence
  4. It has a distinct Chinese character

Chinese Tattoo Character for Tiger

Tiger Chinese Calligraphy

The character tiger 虎, pronounced “hoo”, is the official character that encompasses the animal. However, in conversations, the character for “old” is colloquially added to the tiger in almost all instances, as stated below from left to right:

“lao-hoo”, or tiger

The first character 老, pronounced “lao”, almost always precedes the actual tiger character 虎. Lao (老) means old, so you are technically saying “old tiger”. I do not know the exact reason for adding the word old in front of the tiger, but the same addition can be found in, for example, teacher (老師). Perhaps it is to differentiate other similar sounding words in the Chinese language, or simply to add reverence to the subject. Why is this important? Because you want to make sure to get the best tattoo possible!

Should you get a Tiger Chinese Tattoo?

Because tiger is such a cool animal in many cultures, it is one of the most tattooable characters. However, be sure to get the signal tiger character

And not

As we previously covered, the character for old (老) is purely conversational. Not only does it contain no additional meaning, it actually takes away the overall power and poetic feel of a single character 虎, which in of itself represents the entire literal meaning of the animal. It cannot be confused with anything else. So why tattoo on the word “old” when you don’t have to?

I believe a tattoo should inspire awe, and by using less ink, you are actually achieving more. A single character is all you need to channel out your inner tiger.