Dumpling Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Dumpling Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

While you generally think of Chinese culture when you hear the word “dumpling”, they actually make an appearance in dishes all over the world. Dumpling tattoos have been a popular choice among those who love this pillowy delicacy. 

Dumplings have been a staple in both European and Asian cuisine for centuries, and tattoos of these cute little morsels have become a popular tattoo subject among the foodie community. Dumpling tattoos often symbolize family cohesiveness and counting your blessings. They also symbolize versatility and looking forward to the future.  


What is the History of Dumpling Tattoos?

Most scholars believe dumplings were developed by Zhang Zhongjing, a Chinese doctor who flourished during China’s second imperial dynasty, from 206 BC to 220 AD. Chinese folklore depicts a bitterly cold winter that was wreaking havoc on the doctor’s village. 

To help people fight the cold, Doctor Zhang filled dough with mutton, chilies, and herbs. He then steamed them to make a delicious hand-held morsel. The warm, pillow-like delicacies helped people get through the chilly weather, while the herbs added by Zhongjing improved blood flow circulation and prevented frostbite.

Today, dumplings are such a versatile dish, as they can be used to maximize food supply, to feed a large group of people at a party, or for a meal for one. The dumpling is also present globally in many cultures like:

  • Chinese (jiaozi, dim sum, xiao long bao)
  • Japanese (gyoza)
  • Italian (raviolis, tortellinis)
  • Indian (samosas)
  • Polish (pierogis)
  • Nepalese (momos)
  • Turkish (mantis)
  • South American (empanadas)
  • Syrian/Lebanese (kibbeh)


Because of the prominence of the dumpling across the world as well as the work involved in making them, many in the foodie community get the dumpling tattoo, to symbolize family and community cohesion and teamwork. 


What Do Dumpling Tattoos Symbolize?

Over the centuries, dumplings have taken on several meanings. Check out some of the most popular among those who get dumpling tattoos. 

Dumpling Tattoos Symbolize Family and Community Cohesion 

Often served during the Chinese New Year, families often work together, in an assembly line fashion, to make and cook the dumplings. Families would, quite literally, come together, divide labor, and create these delicious morsels. 

In Chinese culture, serving the dumplings on Chinese New Year symbolizes wrapping up all the hardships and trivial things over the last year and creating something new. Dumplings also represent the rejuvenated beauty of the new year while enjoying the delightful taste of the entire family’s harmony and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Further, dumpling tattoos can also symbolize the unification of a global community. As mentioned above, dumplings make an appearance in numerous countries and cultures around the world. Getting a dumpling tattoo could signify that while we may disagree on many things, we can agree on the deliciousness of the dumpling.  

Dumpling Tattoos Symbolize Progress and Moving Forward   

In Chinese culture, making the dumpling symbolizes the creation of something new. The act of boiling the dumpling can signify moving forward and making progress every day. This can also represent looking toward the future and being excited for things to come. 

Additionally, dumplings were originally created out of necessity and to maximize food supplies. One pound of ground meat, for example, may not be enough to feed a family of four, but mincing it and adding cabbage and other vegetables before rolling it in dough could yield a substantial meal.

Your dumpling tattoo could symbolize making something out of nothing and being grateful for what you have. 


What Do Dumpling Tattoos Mean?

Like all tattoos, those depicting dumplings can hold whatever meaning you give them. Choosing a tattoo design is a highly personal (and permanent) decision that should be meaningful to you.

Your dumpling tattoo could serve as a reminder to be grateful and to always look forward to the future. It could represent the value of family unity and acceptance of various cultures.

Whatever your purpose for getting a dumpling tattoo, make sure you do your homework to ensure you’re delivering the message you want.  


Where Do Dumpling Tattoos Usually Go?

Dumpling tattoos can go anywhere on the body that you choose, but most people put them in visible places. This way, the image of the dumpling can serve as a visual reminder of the symbolic meaning you want it to convey. 



Characteristics and Styles of Dumpling Tattoos

There are many different dumpling designs to choose from when contemplating your tattoo, but most are simple and in black and grey. The majority of dumpling tattoos either feature a lone dumpling, a dumpling in a dim sum basket, or a dumpling among other food items. These tattoos can either be realistic or in a cartoonish style. 

The Lone Dumpling Tattoo

The most popular of these tattoos, the lone dumpling can appear as a realistic food item, or as a cartoon with human features, like a face or a body). Lone dumpling tattoos are usually minimalist black-and-grey ones, with impressive line work. 

The Dumpling Tattoo In A Dim Sum Basket Or With Chopsticks

Some dumpling tattoos depict the pillowy morsels inside a wooden dim sum basket or nestled between two chopsticks. These are also typically done in a minimalist style with black-and-grey line work, in either a realistic or cartoonish technique.  

The Dumpling Tattoo With Other Food Items

Most dumpling tattoos that are pictured with other food items are part of a bigger scene. These can be in black and gray ink, but most are vibrantly coloredbold images. While these can be done in a realistic style, most have a cartoonish motif. 


Final Thoughts On Dumpling Tattoos

Whatever your reason for getting a dumpling tattoo, always do your homework and choose a design that complements your style and taste. Always hire a skilled and experienced artist to achieve the highest quality job and to avoid skin irritations. These little, delicious morsels will stay with you for the rest of your life. Happy inking!

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