In Korean art, the image of the tiger is ubiquitous. As depicted in Yi dynasty (1392-1910) folk paintings and other graphics, the tiger takes on a variety of aspects which amply demonstrate how Korean artists transformed this ferocious and carniverous beast into a magical, gentle, playful, and even foolish creature. Through its encounters with fragile birds, fish, and rabbits, the tiger is revealed in many-faceted, intimate, and human terms.
The significance of these representations, however, is not merely aesthetic. In Korea, as world-wide, animals have always played important roles in the development of the human species. Centrally involved in man's livelihood, magical practices, ritual observances, religion, and amusement, animals may be considered basic to the existence of mankind itself. The use of these animals as subjects of art-and especially as symbols-is universal to all known societies, both literate and non-literate. "Even in modern times, the primeval image of man's peaceful coexistence with animals is considered a symbol of hope and wellbeing. As collective and symbolic expressions of Korean folk-life, this Tattoo of the bold and mystical tiger motif reflect the inner needs of the Bearer of the tattoo.