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The three wise monkeys are a Japanese pictorial maxim, embodying the proverbial principle "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".The three monkeys are
Lafcadio Hearn refers to them as the three mystic apes.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action. The phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.
Outside Japan the monkeys' names are sometimes given as Mizaru, Mikazaruand Mazaru, as the last two names were corrupted from the Japanese originals. The monkeys are Japanese macaques, a common species in Japan.
The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th-century carving over a door of the famous Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan. The carvings at Tōshō-gū Shrine were carved by Hidari Jingoro, and believed to have incorporated Confucius’s Code of Conduct, using the monkey as a way to depict man’s life cycle. There are a total of eight panels, and the iconic three wise monkeys picture comes from panel 2. The philosophy, however, probably originally came to Japan with a Tendai-Buddhist legend, from China in the 8th century (Nara Period). It has been suggested that the figures represent the three dogmas of the so-called middle school of the sect.
In Chinese, a similar phrase exists in the late Analects of Confucius from 2nd to 4th century B.C.: "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety" (非禮勿視，非禮勿聽，非禮勿言，非禮勿動). It may be this phrase that inspired the pictorial maxim after it was brought into Japan.
It is through the Kōshin rite of folk religion that the most significant examples are presented. The Kōshin belief or practice is a Japanese folk religion with Chinese Taoism origins and ancient Shinto influence. It was founded by Tendai Buddhist monks in the late 10th century. A considerable number of stone monuments can be found all over the eastern part of Japan around Tokyo. During the later part of the Muromachi period, it was customary to display stone pillars depicting the three monkeys during the observance of Kōshin.
Though the teaching had nothing to do with monkeys, the concept of the three monkeys originated from a simple play on words. The saying in Japanese is mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru (見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる) "see not, hear not, speak not", where the -zaru is a negative conjugation on the three verbs, matching zaru, the modified form of saru (猿) "monkey" used in compounds. Thus the saying (which does not include any specific reference to "evil") can also be interpreted as referring to three monkeys.
The shrine at Nikko is a Shinto shrine, and the monkey is an extremely important being in the Shinto religion. The monkey is believed to be the messenger of the Hie Shinto shrines, which also have connections with Tendai Buddhism. There are even important festivals that are celebrated during the year of the Monkey (occurring every twelve years) and a special festival is celebrated every sixteenth year of the Kōshin.
"The Three Mystic Apes" (Sambiki Saru) were described as "the attendants of Saruta Hito no Mikoto or Kōshin, the God of the Roads".The Kōshin festival was held on the 60th day of the calendar. It has been suggested that during the Kōshin festival, according to old beliefs, one's bad deeds might be reported to heaven "unless avoidance actions were taken…". It has been theorized that the three Mystic Apes, Not Seeing, Hearing, or Speaking, may have been the "things that one has done wrong in the last 59 days".
According to other accounts, the monkeys caused the Sanshi and Ten-Tei not to see, say or hear the bad deeds of a person. The Sanshi (三尸) are the Three Corpses living in everyone's body. The Sanshi keep track of the good deeds and particularly the bad deeds of the person they inhabit. Every 60 days, on the night called Kōshin-Machi (庚申待), if the person sleeps, the Sanshi will leave the body and go to Ten-Tei (天帝), the Heavenly God, to report about the deeds of that person. Ten-Tei will then decide to punish bad people, making them ill, shortening their time alive, and in extreme cases putting an end to their lives. Those believers of Kōshin who have reason to fear will try to stay awake during Kōshin nights. This is the only way to prevent the Sanshi from leaving their body and reporting to Ten-Tei.
An ancient representation of the "no see, no hear, no say, no do" can be found in four golden figurines in the Zelnik Istvan Southeast Asian Gold Museum. These golden statues date from the 6th to 8th century. The figures look like tribal human people with not very precise body carvings and strong phallic symbols.This set indicates that the philosophy comes from very ancient roots.
Just as there is disagreement about the origin of the phrase, there are differing explanations of the meaning of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".
Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted, Shizaru, who symbolizes the principle of "do no evil", which fits with the full quote from Analects of Confucius. The monkey may be shown crossing his arms or covering his genitals. Yet another variation has the fourth monkey hold its nose to avoid a stench and has been dubbed "smell no evil" accordingly.
The opposite version of the three wise monkeys can also be found. In this case, one monkey holds its hands to its eyes to focus vision, the second monkey cups its hands around its ears to improve hearing, and the third monkey holds its hands to its mouth like a bullhorn. Another modern interpretation is "Hear, see, and speak out loud for what you stand for".
According to Osho Rajneesh, the monkey symbolism originated in ancient Hindu tradition and Buddhist monks spread this symbolism across Asia. The original Hindu and Buddhist version has four monkeys and the fourth monkey covers his genitals. The Buddhist version means this as "Don't do anything evil".
In Hindu original version the meaning of the fourth monkey is totally different from the popular Buddhist version. It means, "Hide your pleasures. Hide your enjoyment, don't show it to anybody."
Osho Rajneesh gave his own meaning regarding this. The first monkey denotes 'Don't listen to the truth because it will disturb all your consoling lies'. The second monkey denotes 'Don't look at the truth; otherwise your God will be dead and your heaven and hell will disappear'. The third monkey denotes 'Don't speak the truth, otherwise you will be condemned, crucified, poisoned, tortured by the whole crowd, the unconscious people. The fourth monkey denotes "Keep your pleasures, your joys, hidden. Don't let anybody know that you are a cheerful man, a blissful man, an ecstatic man, because that will destroy your very life. It is dangerous".
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The three wise monkeys, and the associated proverb, are known throughout Asia and outside Asia. They have been a motif in pictures, such as the ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock printings) by Keisai Eisen, and are frequently represented in modern culture.
Mahatma Gandhi's one notable exception to his lifestyle of non-possession was a small statue of the three monkeys - Bapu, Ketan and Bandar. Today, a larger representation of the three monkeys is prominently displayed at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Gandhi lived from 1915 to 1930 and from where he departed on his famous salt march. Gandhi's statue also inspired a 2008 artwork by Subodh Gupta, Gandhi's Three Monkeys .
The three monkeys are depicted in the trial scene in the 1968 film Planet of the Apes . In an example of semiotics, the judges mimic the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkeys.
In a spoof of this saying, Bob Dole quipped about a meeting of former US Presidents: "Carter, Ford and Nixon: see no evil, hear no evil and evil."
The maxim inspired an award-winning 2008 Turkish film by director Nuri Bilge Ceylan called Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun).
Unicode provides emoji representations of the monkeys in the Emoticons block as follows:
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In Japanese mythology, the Seven Lucky Gods or Seven Gods of Fortune are believed to grant good luck and are often represented in netsuke and in artworks. One of the seven (Jurōjin) is said to be based on an historical figure.
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Inari Ōkami, also called Ō-Inari (大稲荷), is the Japanese kami of foxes, fertility, rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto. In earlier Japan, Inari was also the patron of swordsmiths and merchants. Represented as male, female, or androgynous, Inari is sometimes seen as a collective of three or five individual kami. Inari appears to have been worshipped since the founding of a shrine at Inari Mountain in 711 AD, although some scholars believe that worship started in the late 5th century.
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Kōshin (庚申) or Kōshin-shinkō (庚申信仰) is a folk faith in Japan with Taoist origins, influenced by Shinto, Buddhism and other local beliefs. A typical event related to the faith is called Kōshin-kō (庚申講), held on the Kōshin days that occur every 60 days in accordance with the Chinese sexagenary cycle.
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This is the glossary of Shinto, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on the subject. Words followed by an asterisk (*) are illustrated by an image in one of the photo galleries. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary.
This is the glossary of Japanese Buddhism, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on the subject. Words followed by an asterisk (*) are illustrated by an image in one of the photo galleries. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary.
Japanese folklore encompasses the informally learned folk traditions of Japan and the Japanese people as expressed in its oral traditions, customs, and material culture.
Gandhi's Three Monkeys is a series of sculptures created by Indian artist Subodh Gupta that portrays three heads in different types of military headgear. The sculptures recall a visual metaphor from India's famous champion of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, of the "Three wise monkeys", representing the principle "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".
Deformer is a music project led by Dutch music producer Mike Redman since the early nineties. They were amongst the first generation of Jungle producers in the Netherlands and are known for merging different music genres that would later be described as Breakcore. They pioneered with using Sranan Tongo in their Jungle productions as well as primarily using Gabber sounds. Their experimental electronic (dance) music is often Horror influenced.
The Japanese macaque, characterized by brown-grey fur, red face, red buttocks, and short tail, inhabits all of the islands in the Japanese archipelago except northernmost Hokkaido. Throughout most of Japanese history, monkeys were a familiar animal seen in fields and villages, but with habitat lost through urbanization of modern Japan, they are presently limited to mountainous regions. Monkeys are a historically prominent feature in the religion, folklore, and art of Japan, as well as in Japanese proverbs and idiomatic expressions.
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