3 wise monkeys

Sydney March 2014 (2 images)

The three wise monkeys (Japanese: 三猿, san’en or sanzaru, or 三匹の猿, sanbiki no sari), sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a pictorial maxim. They embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action. The phrase is also used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.

The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th-century carving over a door of the Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan. The carvings at the Shrine were carved by Hidari Jingoro, and believed to have incorporated Confucius’ 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. However, the philosophy 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. …source: wikipedia.

The three monkeys are:

Iwazaru. He’s on the left and speaks no evil. However, he might use his hands to express himself though;

Mizaru. She’s in the middle with eyes closed so as to see no evil;

Kikazaru. He’s on the right and hears no evil. It helps to sometimes stand apart from the others to make that easier.

3 wise monkeys 3

Those 3 monkeys above the doorway of the pub caught my eye. That building used to be a bank. Now there’s a twist.
Oh, and coincidentally there also happen to be three pedestrians standing across the road. Don’t you think it was very nice of them to pose for me? 🙂 As I’ve said before, I like to be prepared for that candid moment by always having my camera ready and I like to photograph people at intersections.

Over at the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, this week’s topic is Twist, by which they want unexpected and surprising, something filthy rich with meaning. That’s a tough one. I don’t think I have anything like that so I’ll just go with this one. 😉

PS: This will be my only post this week. My next post will be next week.

Photography Etcetera, Sony Etcetera

Speak no, See no, Hear no …


79 thoughts on “Speak no, See no, Hear no …

  1. Very ironic indeed that it used to be a bank. One question with people “posing” for you: do you ask them first? I must have a bad aura about me because I’ve had problems with photographing things such as rooftops of tall building (where I’m blatantly pointing my camera upwards) and people duck down when they pass by because they think I’ll photograph them. Once a guy got really angry with me and told me to put my camera away because I was invading his privacy – I was focusing up at the sky, to the setting sun behind a tall mountain top, so he was no where within my angle of vision…

    • I meant “posing” in a fun way. This was completely candid and I’ve been fortunate enough to not be in the position you describe. Some people are irrational and best avoided.

  2. Why above the entrance to a bank? Your three street “monkeys” are priceless. There are so many possibilities for those monkeys: Don’t speak, don’t look, don’t listen. Can’t say, can’t see, can’t hear. Great post and great image. See you next week Lignum. 🙂

    • I’m guessing/hoping those monkeys didn’t appear until after the bank had left and the pub commenced, but I may very well be wrong. 🙂
      The imagination could run rife with this one. Thanks and have a great week ahead.

  3. This is a great interpretation of the theme. What a fitting shot. Monkeys on top of the awning, and “monkeys” below on the street. If that pub used to be a bank, then it must have been a very gothic-like bank.

  4. LaVagabonde says:

    Looks like you were busted, young man. Except for the lady, everyone seemed to know what you were up to.

    • But soooo worth it to get the shot, don’t you think? Actually Mr hear no evil is not looking at me but no doubt they all saw me jostling for position on the other side of the intersection. 🙂

  5. I love it!!!! I am surprised you know so many things about the three monkeys..I did not even know they had names!!!!
    I must confess at the beginning what caught my eye was the man in the middle of the picture..I love his confidence, his air of satisfied and happy man…Then, I saw the three monkeys!!!
    Always a pleasure to read your posts!!! Enjoy the week!

    • Thank you, yes I tried to hide the monkey sculpture in the corner for a bit of dramatic effect. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      I could pretend to be a world-wise man, but in truth, my friend the google monster tells me everything I need to know. 🙂

  6. I like the expression of the man on the far right 🙂
    Anyway, I visited that very shrine in Japan last month. Hordes of tourists clamoring around a door to take photos of the 3 monkeys.

  7. YorkshireRascal says:

    I always appear to leave this blog with a smile. I was reading your description looking at the pedestrians not noticing the wise monkeys on top of the pub sign. A superb candid 😀

  8. Cool photo and awesome composition! Love the story behind it. Thanks for sharing this picture and the story. Have a great week and looking forward to see your post next week!

  9. When I saw the first photo the monkeys caught my eye right away. 🙂 They look so cool up there. Really interesting to hear the story about them. You’ve captured such a great scene with those three pedestrians standing there and bringing the twist into your story. Wonderful post Draco! 🙂

  10. Definitely a twist that the pub was once a bank! Haha! Two businesses (a hair salon and a craft store) I frequented for many years were both in spaces that were once banks, with vaults in use for products and merchandise other than money! I don’t know if the monkey’s in your photo are more applicable for the bank executives or the pub patrons 🙂

  11. Great shots… all of them. I’m speechless. I never tried black and white but your photos inspire me to try. I was laughing when a friend of mine told me he bought the Leica M. Now I understand it better. I can’t wait for your next post.

  12. Thanks for the info about those monkeys, I had seen them before but didn’t really know anything about them. It seems they didn’t see you taking that picture either! 😀 Were the monkey’s there when the building was still a bank? Banks are fast disappearing these days. It’s odd how they always end up being turned into a bar. I guess they both have something in common – they make huge sums of money! 😉

    • I’m sure hoping the monkeys were installed for the pub, and not then when it was still a bank. If they were there when it was a bank, they would have lost customers very quickly. 🙂

  13. Hey…if the monkeys were there when it was a bank, it would have been a signal that you could launder your money there or stash your ill-gotten gains with the authorities none the wiser. “The Royal Bank of Wink-Wink Nod-Nod Enough Said.”

  14. LB says:

    I so appreciate that you always give background to your photos … I learn much.
    Excellent picture of not only the monkeys, but the pedestrians, too.

  15. So much wonderful detail in the photo – I had fun simply studying them all. And thanks for the education about the monkeys! It’s always fun to learn something new.

  16. Why did I miss this one! I am very grateful for the explanation of the origin of this maxim. What behaviour would you assign to each one of your three pedestrians? The female one is – see no evil I think :D. I would need the forth monkey : smell no evil 😀

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