The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, May 01, 2006

Three Wise Monkeys

This is a Wikipedia article. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article, which has more links, and other information.

I read somewhere that the 3 wise monkeys adorn the tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the real life model for the character of Toranaga in Shogun.

three wise monkeys

The three wise monkeys (in Japanese 三猿, sanzaru, or 三匹 の猿, sanbiki no saru, lit. "three monkeys") are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle "to see no evil, hear no evil, and to speak no evil". The three monkeys are Mizaru (見猿), covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru (聞か猿), covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru (言わ猿), covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th century carving over a door of the famous Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan. The maxim, however, probably originally came to Japan with a Tendai-Buddhist legend possibly from India via China in the 8th century (Yamato Period). Though the teaching most probably had nothing to do with monkeys, the concept of the three monkeys originated from a word play on the fact that zaru in Japanese, which denotes the negative form of a verb, sounds like saru, monkey (actually it is one reading of 猿, the Chinese character for monkey). The saying in Japanese is "見ざる、聞かざる、言わざる" (mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru), literally "don't see, don't hear, don't speak".

They have also been a motif in pictures, e.g. ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock printings, by Kesai Eisen. Today they are known throughout Asia and in the Western world, but in the West generally the monkeys are See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

The idea behind the proverb was part of the teaching of god Vadjra, that if we do not hear, see or talk evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil. This is similarly reflected in the English proverb "Talk of the devil - and the devil appears."

Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others, the last one Shizaru (し猿), covers his abdomen or crotch and symbolizes the principle of "do no evil".

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