People in Chin State used to have the custom of tattooing the face of the women.Nobody is really sure how the custom became established, but a legend was that hundreds of years ago, Burmese kings and nobles used to come to Chin Hills and hunt for the beautiful Chin girls, as the fame of their beauty reached the court of Burma. To avoid their women being captured by the Burmese, they had no way but to destroy this beauty. This they done by tattooing the face of young girls.
As soon as a girl enters the age of puberty, tattoo is applied onto her face – the pattern of the tattoo being the one according to the race she belongs. The process of facial tattooing is quite painful and dangerous. Some even died of infection. The practice has been outlawed since 1960s, but some still practiced until around 1980s.
Tattooing tradition of Chin nationals is interesting. Variations in tattoos indicate different clans. Some have thick black spots tattooed all over the face. Some have rows of vertical lines on which curved lines are drawn, producing oval shaped caricatures on the whole face.
The most extraordinary Chin fashion of old was the custom of tattooing women’s faces. Chin facial tattoos cover the whole face starting near the bridge of the nose and radiate out in a pattern of dark lines that resemble a spider’s web. Even the eye lids were tattooed. The tattooing was traditionally done to girls once they reached the age of 12 or 13. The practice died out after World War 2, but in many Chin villages one can see a few tattooed grannies going about their daily chores. Legend has it that this practice was initiated to keep young Chin maidens from being coveted by Rakhing princes whose kingdoms bordered the southern Chin hills.
Today it is not common to see the female Chins with tattoos on their faces in north and central Chin state, but Mindat and other south Chin villages still maintain this tradition. Especially young women of the Munn tribe in Mt. Victoria region are keen to do this customs.
Munn, Makan and Dine tribes each has different tattoo design. Munn’s tattoo is a line of small circles along the neck, straight lines making half moon shape for the cheeks. Dine put a lot of dots all over the face. Another tribes of Chin group in Arakan state uses a spider-net pattern tattoos which are not found around Mindat. Dine females are also said that they used to be slaves and its evidence was a ring shaped tattoo around the ankles which they still have today.