as beautiful as is this image above (from XxBammBammxX's Xanga blog) I don't believe it is a real tattoo. I arrived here after finding the real, if less beautiful tattoo below:
and I'm sure you can imagine how excited I got when I found this on fashion tribes blog.
I went forth looking for more map tattoos and found this dude on DDV's travels in China blog:
The blogger describes the work thus:
On eyecatcher by an artist whom I forgot his name, he made a tattoo of a map of china on his back, and then started travelling through the country. each city where he goes, he has something tattooed onto the map. This was weird to see because I happened to be at a dinner yesterday night and randomly sat next to this girl WangWei. I explained her I was gonna live on a farm outside of Beijing and that I'd be interested to get a motorcycle. She said she had a friend who was very into motorcycles and he could maybe help out, he was also an artists and he also did something with tattoos, with a map on his back and at every place he went....
Unfortunately, subsequent repeated google searches didn't turn up any other map tattoos, treasure or otherwise. What they did turn up were:
1) instances of people using map tattoos as plot furtherers in movies and prose fiction
2) a lot of claims of map tattoos on discussion boards, but with no photos
3) instructions on how to get to the next level of a computer game
4) a dream of discovering a map tattoo on one's abdomen
What does this say about us, that we use tattoos of maps in fiction, that we dream of being tattooed by maps, that we claim tattoos of maps in discussions of self and identity. There's something here about personalizing something by having it imprinted on your body permanently; and there's something here about mapping as control -- or being controlled.
The narratives referenced in movies and computer games and in dreams seem to involve people with map tattoos who have no memory of getting the tattoo and no knowledge of what the map's significance is. Their story arc is to discover, and thereby control and own, the territory -- and usually treasure -- depicted in the map. The map tattooed on their body is felt at the beginning to be controlling them -- because they didn't ask for the map and can't read the map. By reading the map, you acquire its power.
Conversely, the claims of map tattoos on discussion boards come inevitably out of discussions around identity and control of self. For example, one e-nterlocutor answered the question "which part of your body do you hate the most?" with a description of the tattoo of the world he has on his back. Putting the map onto you, far from removing your control of its contents, actually intensifies your control of the map's contents by personalizing them, making them not just a part of your claim of identity, but an actual part of your body.
So why aren't there more map tattoos out there?