Generations ago, tribes in the Chin province of Myanmar began to tattoo the faces of young women...

Why would they do that, you ask?

Surprising as it may seem, it turns out they actually had a pretty good reason.

Like in many cultures, it used to be the case for the Chin that royalty could marry whoever they wanted.

And, of course, a neighboring prince with enough men could marry whenever he wanted, too, simply showing up and taking his next wife on a whim.

For the Chin people, this meant repeatedly having their hearts broken as their daughters were stolen away by marauders...

Obviously, they couldn’t expect to fight against this injustice and win.

They would be crushed...

So they had to get creative…

Chin parents began tattooing their young daughters’ faces.

Now what prince would want them as wives?

But then a fascinating evolution occurred.

Over the years, what was intended originally to make the women undesirable began to have the opposite effect.

Eventually, the full facial tattoos became signs of beauty rather than the opposite.

And so female face tattooing became a thoroughgoing tradition, deeply entrenched in local culture.

Of course the tattoos have not been necessary to ward off any unwed princes for some time now, so you will be glad to hear that the practice has been banned for several decades…

Images: National PostThe Daily Mail, Oddity CentralMyanmar,

The Atlantic, Thai Medical NewsBetter Photo, Wikimedia, OMG, WTO)

But as we’ve seen here, many of the older generation of Chin women still bear the amazing markings.

*** ONE TIME USE ONLY IN NATION AL POST PRINT AND ONLINE - NO POSTMEDIA USE *** CONTACT PHOTO DEPARTMENT BEFORE ANY USE ***** ***FREELANCE PHOTO - POSTMEDIA NETWORK USE ONLY*** A woman with a facial tattoo poses for a photo in Myanmar's Chin State. Historically the Chin were adored for their beauty and King's would come to villages to steal men's wives. As a measure against their women being stolen, village elders started tattooing teenage girls to make them 'ugly'. The tradition stuck and over generations eventually lost it's original meaning of ugliness and came to represent courage, beauty and strength. However, as these traditional groups began moving outside their villages, the struggle between tradition and modernity has placed tribal Chin culture under increasing threat of being absorbed by the dominant Burmese. Unique language, customs and dress have been abandoned. Under this pressure to assimilate, the practice of facial tattooing has also been discontinued. Currently there remain only a handful of women adorning facial tattoos. add photo credit (Brent Lewin for National Post) **** ONE TIME USE ONLY IN NATION AL POST PRINT AND ONLINE - NO POSTMEDIA USE *** CONTACT PHOTO DEPARTMENT BEFORE ANY USE *****