Three Monks

Last updated
Three Monks
Directed by A Da
Written by Bao Lei
Cinematography You Yong
Release date
January 1, 1980
Running time
20 minutes
Country China

Three Monks (Chinese :三个和尚; pinyin :San ge he shang), also translated as The Three Buddhist Priests, is a Chinese animated feature film produced by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the film was one of the first animations created as part of the rebirth period. It won the Silver Bear for Best Short Film at the 1982 Berlin International Film Festival.



The film is based on the ancient Chinese proverb "One monk will shoulder two buckets of water, two monks will share the load, but add a third and no one will want to fetch water." [1] The film does not contain any dialogues, allowing it to be watched by any culture, and a different music instrument was used to signify each monk. [2] The film tells the story from the aspect of the buddhist bhikkhu.


Once upon a time, there was a young monk lives a simple life in a temple on top of a hill. He has one daily task of hauling two buckets of water up the hill. One day, a skinny monk arrives. The young monk tries to share the job with the skinny monk, but the carry pole is only long enough for one bucket. So, they decided to carry one bucket in the center. But when they go up and down hill, the bucket moves. The weight was not even to them both, so they argued a lot. A few days after, a fat monk joined them. The fat monk drank all the water! Then the other two monks wanted the fat monk to bring the two buckets of water up. But as soon as the fat monk brought the water up, he drank it all again. At this point, everyone expects that someone else will take on the chore. Consequently, no one fetches water though everybody is thirsty. One night, a rat comes to scrounge and then knocks the candle holder, leading to a devastating fire in the temple. The three monks finally unite and make a concerted effort to put out the fire. Since then they understand the old saying "unity is strength" and begin to live a harmonious life. The three monks made a pulley, that will help fetching water easily. The temple never lacks water again.



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  1. China Org. "China Org." "Three Monks." Retrieved on 2007-01-10. Archived January 22, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  2. CCTV. "CCTV." "80 Years of Chinese animation." Retrieved on 2007-01-10.