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Monkey Motley

As we approach the Fiery Monkey Year we would like to offer you some out-of-the-run facts from history of relationship between monkeys and humans.


In India monkey is considered to be a sacred animal. People respect primates here and allow them to rob. On village roads monkeys sit in a chain, taking each other by the arm and baulk the way of buses. Then they open the door and empty the tourists’ bags. They take out coins and go to banana sellers who sit by the road. Having chosen a fruit they like, monkeys pay for it and the seller gives them “change” because it is a sin to cheat the holy monkey. Tourists have only to be observers of the proceedings. Otherwise they would have to deal with furious locals who would take offence at such sacrilege.


Each year in Lopbury city of Thailand people make a festival for monkeys. People bring tons of vegetables, fruit and eggs to ruins of Khmer temple Prang Sam Yot where several hundred of monkeys live. Napkins are being spread put for monkeys, beverages are being poured out, even a menu is offered. But banqueters do not observe the rules of behavior – they run on tables, smash the food with their legs, throw food remnants and empty cans on tourists. But locals believe such charity beckons good luck, so they think it is worth it.

Monkeys have been revered in the Ancient Egypt, in Africa, in India and in China.

In Ancient Egypt hamadryas baboons have been greatly respected. Ancient Egyptians considered them to be loyal companions of god Ra and of god of the Moon as well as of god Tot. Sacred hamadryas baboons were embalmed and buried. The hieroglyph of a dog-headed monkey meant literacy. Baboon was a symbol of wisdom. Walls of temples and mausoleums of Ancient Egypt were decorated with baboons. Probable they became prototypes of famous sphinxes of Egypt.

In Tibet Avalokiteshvara first appeared in the image of a sacred monkey who sympathized a giantess. This marriage brought six progenitors of Tibet people.

In Indian mythology Khanuman, Indian Monkey god, has noble spirit, remarkable wit, great physical force. Khanuman was a loyal companion of Rama god and he symbolized valiance, tenacity and self-sacrifice. With his help Rama god overcame the ferocious and bad giant- Rama entered into covenant with Khanuman and Khanuman sent many cohorts of monkeys and bears.

Stories of monkey kings exist in Chinese mythology. Monkeys are smart and agile there; they also symbolize motherly care.

In Japan monkeys are mascots that protect children. Three little monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil symbolize wide-awakeness. These carved figures have been considered as a mascot that protects against slander.

Christian tradition treats monkeys with prejudice. Monkeys are identified with sin, passions, idolatry and diabolic heresies.

In Western art monkeys incarnate hypocrisy, sin, foul play, love of luxury, criminal intentions, lust and greed.

An unusual sculpture “Darwin Evolution Theory” is in nature reserve on Monkey island in Hainan. A chimpanzee in the posture of Rodin’s “Thinker” is sitting on a batch of books of Charles Darwin. Hundreds of Guangxi macaques inhabit the reserve. Almost human conditions are created for them there. They have swimming-pools with deckchairs, even a prison for the most wild and undignified individuals.