Thailand’s Buddhist tattooing practice or Sak Yant originated from natives who lived in the mountains of Yunnan province in China. Their skills gradually passed down to the Thais during the trading trips these natives made down south to Thailand to sell their produce. As Thailand’s economy prospered, the number of these trips increased and there was more contact between the Thais and these natives from Yunnan. With the betterment of the economy came the development of another sect of tattooists by the name of ‘Mi Di Kong’. This sect was first founded in Myanmar and then found its way into Thailand. In short, it would be correct to sat that the Thais’ skills and belief in Sak Yant can be originally traced back to Yunnan and Myanmar. Through years of painstaking modification and improvements, Thailand has undisputedly become home to the best Buddhist Tattoo masters in the world.
The culture of Sak Yant was introduced into mainstream society by the ancient Thai Buddhist Temples.
What we nowknow as ‘Thailand’ was once made up of various scattered Siamese states which were unified in 1769 after the Thais successfully defeated the Burmese invasion. Thailand is a kingdom blessed with brilliant rulers that ensured her independence from any colonial powers. But even before 1769, anyone who wanted to become a monk had first learn basic Buddhist scriptures and sutras. They must then proceed to pass an exam conducted by the senior monks who had acquired blessed spiritual powers through their years of spiritual cultivation and meditation. This exam was to prove that these novice monks had the mandatory skills to protect themselves and bless others, whether through chanting of tattooing.
Even after thy had passed their religious exams and become part of the Sangha, their real journey and the tests awaiting them have only just begun. They must be prepared to lead by example and the first thing they had to accomplish as a Buddhist monk is to have Yants tattooed on them by their Master. Every novice monk had his individual Master who would guide them through their stint in the Sangha.
Every senior monk had his own unique tattoo. His Master will choose a sacred image to tattoo on him, according to the monk’s birth-date and sign. The designs varied. After the design was chosen, the Master will chant the accompanying scriptures and tattoo on his disciples. Through chanting, the Master would use his powers to bless his new disciple and activate the tattoo which will then become a form os sacred protection for the new monk – a talisman.