Prison Break Tattoo

Chinese Tattoo Parlor

I passed by a tattoo shop near my home the other day and snapped a picture of it. I briefly mused that with more and more Chinese tattoo shops opening, maybe foreigners can come to China to get their tattoos and finally get the Chinese characters right! (Of course then most people would have a language barrier to deal with, but that seems more surmountable to me than depending on a random tattoo artist to really know Chinese characters.)

Anyway, after looking at the picture of the shop at home, I decided to check out its website, Here’s what greeted me:

Prisonbreak Tattoo

I hadn’t paid any attention to the Chinese name of the store until I saw its website. The tattoo shop is capitalizing on the success in China of the TV show Prison Break to sell its tattoos. The Chinese name for “Prison Break” is 越狱 (Yuèyù). I understand the main character has a big tattoo vital to the storyline.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. It’s also very popular here in Korea, but the show has already jumped the shark. Anyhow, I prepared a prison break lesson for my students that went over very well.

    Honestly the show should have ended at the end of season 2, but the last 15 minutes of the finale feels like it was scrraped together at the last minute in order to drag it out another season.

  2. wth, they’ve got a website…

  3. I think the tattoo is something like a secret set of the prison’s blueprints.
    I for one haven’t seen the show, but I have become quite familiar with it considering that a shaved head here these days means you ‘look just like the prison break guy!’ (I really don’t at all. Good stuff)

  4. I have only seen it a couple times, but most of my male Chinese friends watch it religiously.

  5. I got sucked into watching every episode with a Chinese student and another foreign teacher, and really enjoyed it despite myself. Indeed, the whole first season is about the main character’s absurdly complicated plan to break his brother (on death row) out of prison. It involves a tattoo over his entire body with clues to things like the prison blueprints.

    I’ve often wondered why it is so popular in China. The student we watched it with was a freshman girl and in my experience Chinese girls are not big on violence and prison sex. Maybe simply because it is available with a good Chinese translation.

  6. 音弗丽娅 Says: July 17, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    That’s pretty funny. Basic plot line is main character’s (guy with the tattoo, Scofield) brother (Lincoln) is prisoned for murdering the vice president’s brother. And it just so happens the prison is designed by Scofield, in order to rescue his brother, Scofield gets him self thrown into prison by faking a bank robbery. Before he does this, he tattoos the blue print of the prison to his entire upper body (it’s actually pretty impressive looking), and everything he needs to get his brother out and to a safe place, this includes passwords, locations, etc.

    Anyway, back on topic… So they are able to get the chinese character right (and in different writing style!!) But have you looked in the 文身作品 section? Some the English ones are pretty funny, I like the one with the tattoo of “Lowell Avenue”. What happened on said ‘Avenue’ to deserve a tattoo? Hmmm… Or a tattoo of “AYMB MKNKH”, I wonder what they were aiming for…

  7. I’ve noticed the Prison Break fanaticism here, too! Actually, so exhausted by the onslaught of the DVD-selling man who works the corner near my office, I finally gave in and bought Prison Break seasons 1 and 2… and it was actually (I am ashamed to admit) quite good. I can’t figure out why it’s so popular here, though. Is there something about flouting authority and breaking rules that is latently appealing to the Chinese? Teamwork? Handsome, ethnically-ambiguous men with smoldering eyes and enigmatic tats? My Chinese friends (mostly women and gay men) stick to the “so cute!” line, though of course am inclined to dig deeper… Or, as danjo suggests, maybe it’s just the quality of subtitles.


  8. Prison Break is an awesome show, and I discuss it sometimes with my students. I’ve got some extensive tattoos on my back and arms and I’ll sometimes hear students whisper “Michael Scoffield” as I walk to classes :-P. My girlfriend here thinks Michael is uber-cute, as do pretty much all my female students, but they don’t dig his ink.

  9. i think personally the tattoos on the character Michael Scoffield are well-designed. I have just been sucked into watching the series and have heard that there is going to be a third season. personally, i can’t wait. but the thing is, see that the tattoos are important to the plot of the series, what will happen to the tattoos in the third season? will they have scenes where scoffield will have his shirt off or are they simply going to hide it and not draw it on his body if it was only intended for the prison break-out? i mean if it is not that important anymore they should just keep his upper-body covered at all times – – – unless there is another a part on of the tattoo that has a clue, and because it is part of the plot, bring it up in the third season——-just to keep the originality of the plot and the importance of the tattoo…. sorry, there i go – being technical again….

  10. My friend was just in china, tattoo shops are forbidden in beijing. people there where snapping up close photos of his tatts every where he was.

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