Body art

80-year-old undertaker in Singapore sees tattoos of lifelong friend as way to cheat death - and sets social media alight in the process

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 10:06pm

When an 80-year-old man entered Alan ‘Q’ Zhi Lun’s tattoo parlor in Singapore’s Golden Mile complex on Monday requesting some body art, Zhi found himself facing an ethical conflict given the gentleman's age and frail, emaciated appearance.

Zhi had no idea the man, who goes by the name Chunhao, was a highly respected undertaker from Geyland Bahru, a neighbourhood on the eastern side of Singapore not far from one of its infamous red light districts.

"To be honest, at first I was quite shock[ed]’, Q wrote on his Facebook post, which has since been shared over 6,000 times.

After he heard the man's emotional appeal, Zhi's heart melted and he couldn't refuse the request.

Chunhao said he wanted to get some Chinese calligraphy inked on both arms in honour of his best friend of 45 years, who had recently passed away.

When the news came to light it provoked a massive public response on social media in Singapore and an outpouring of support for the octogenarian, who is known locally for his strong sense of responsibility and mental toughness. 

Zhi was also deeply moved, so much so that he tried to charge the man only 1/20th of his regular fee.

"After listening [to his story] my heart felt heavy," he said. "So I decided to get this important job done."

Tattoos of this size and detail would ordinarily cost his clients the equivalent of around US$140, and Chunyao refused to pay a cent less. 

Zhi said the Singaporean was his oldest client so far after 12 years in the business, and that he was impressed by his sense of obligation to a friend.

“It’s hard to find people like him anymore," he told online website Mothership Singapore.

The tattoo artist also recounted Chunhao's emotional appeal inside his shop, which was the same as the message he wanted inked on his body.

It reads more like a poem than an argument.

"Once it’s gone it’s gone, and there’s no trace of it till the ends of the earth," the old man said. "If we bid farewell today, when will we meet again?"