See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil

I saw these monkeys in a home decor store yesterday and had to get them! They’re actually candles but I dont intend to burn them! Aren’t they adorable?

When I saw them yesterday I knew they were the three wise monkeys but thats all I knew about them so when I got home I thought I owed it to my little primates to do a little research on their origins.

I found that they come from Japan and actually have names (!) – Mizaru (who sees no evil), Kikazaru (who hears no evil), and Iwazaru (who speaks no evil). There is sometimes a fourth one Shizaru (who does no evil – and has his arms crossed). In Japanese culture they have associations with being of good mind, speech and action. According to Wikipedia,

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 Toshogu 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 8 panels, and the iconic three wise monkeys picture comes from panel 2. The philosophy, however, probably originally came to Japan with a TendaiBuddhist 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.

The three wise monkeys over the Tōshō-gū shrine

They are also known as the Three Mystic Apes (Sambiki Saru). The Western interpretation is a bit different and “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is used to descrive someone who is willfully turning a blind eye to an immoral acct. Its similar to the Italian “non vedo, non sento, non parlo” (I see nothing, I hear nothing, I say nothing), which expresses the Omertà, a code of silence enforced by criminal organizations like the Mafia.

I definitely prefer the Eastern version!