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The Monkey (猴) is the ninth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Monkey is associated with the Earthly Branch (地支) symbol Shēn (申).

Chinese Zodiac – Monkey 

Recent years of the Monkey in the Chinese Lunar Calendar are 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.

Chinese Zodiac years are according to the Chinese lunar calendar, starting at Chinese New Year (February 8 in 2016). People born in January or February can check when Chinese New Year falls to confirm their birth sign, for example at the following link. http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/monkey.htm)

 

Characteristics of Monkeys

Monkeys possesses such traits as curiosity, mischievousness, and cleverness.

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Tile end with the impression of a monkey (猴紋瓦當) of the Northern and Southern dynasties (南北朝) (420 CE to 589 CE), diameter 15.6 cm

 

The Monkey King

The most famous monkey of all is the legendary hero Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空) who accompanies the devout Buddhist monk Xuán Zàng (玄奘) in his historic search for the Buddhist scriptures in the epic novel Journey to the West (西遊記). Also known as the Monkey King, he is a very popular character in Chinese paintings, cartoons, plays, films, and puppet shows.  Sūn has a magical stave that can be as small as a needle or as large as a pillar.

图片选自清光绪十四年味潜斋石印本《新说西游记图像》http://www.360doc.com/content/12/1123/23/3854622_249859909.shtml
An illustration of the Monkey in Journey to the West‘ (1888) 图片选自清光绪十四年味潜斋石印本《新说西游记图像》http://www.360doc.com/content/12/1123/23/3854622_249859909.shtml
Pu Xinyu(溥心畬) (1896 – 1963) Illustrations of ‘Journey to the West’ (西遊記連環畫) (1949)
Pu Xinyu (溥心畬) (1896 – 1963) Illustrations of ‘Journey to the West’ (西遊記連環畫) (1949)

 

Monkeys in Chinese Paintings

The monkey plays an important role in Chinese art and folklore for a number of reasons.

First, it is associated with intelligence.

Secondly, its name, which has a homophone meaning ‘nobleman or high official’ (hóu 侯); and its identification with reproduction in terms of ‘descendants’ (hòu 後).

Attributed to Máo Sōng (毛松), Sung Dynasty (宋朝), Monkey (猴圖)
Attributed to Máo Sōng (毛松), Sung Dynasty (宋朝), Monkey (猴圖)
Muqi 牧谿 (1210 ? – 1270 ?), Sung Dynasty (宋朝), Gibbon (猿)
Muqi 牧谿 (1210 ? – 1270 ?), Sung Dynasty (宋朝), Gibbon (猿)

 

Liu Songnian (劉松年)(born 1174), Arhat Portrait (羅漢圖) (dated 1207)
Liu Songnian (劉松年)(born 1174), Arhat Portrait (羅漢圖) (dated 1207)
Details of the above Arhat Portrait showing the monkey
Details of the above Arhat Portrait showing the monkey

 

Details of the above Arhat Portrait showing the monkey
Details of the above Arhat Portrait showing the monkey

Place the crazy monkey (fēng hóu 瘋猴) on (shàng 上) the back (hóu 後) of a horse (mǎ 馬) sounds exactly like ‘mǎ shàng fēng hóu‘ (馬上封侯): ‘May you quickly be made a high official’ (mǎ shàng  meaning either ‘on the horse’ or ‘right away, immediately).

Zhào yōng (趙雍)(1290 – c1362), Yuan Dynasty (元朝), Gibbon and Horse (猴馬圖)
Zhào yōng (趙雍)(1290 – c 1362), Yuan Dynasty (元朝), Monkey and Horse (mǎ shàng fēng hóu‘ (猴馬圖) (馬上封侯) [The monkey is in harmony with the horse and they enjoy each other’s company.]

 

Zhang Daqian (張大千) (1899 – 1983), Ape (猿)
Zhang Daqian (張大千) (1899 – 1983), Gibbon (猿)
Liú Kuílíng (劉奎齡) (1885 – 1967) Monkey and the Pine Tree (松猴圖)
Liú Kuílíng (劉奎齡) (1885 – 1967) Monkey and the Pine Tree (松猴圖)

 

There is another legend of Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空) stealing and consuming Xi Wangmu’s (西王母) ‘peaches of immortality’.

A peach is a symbol of ‘longevity’. A crazy monkey holding a peach (fèng hóu bào shòu 瘋猴抱壽) sounds exactly like fèng hóu bào shòu 俸侯抱壽, meaning ‘May you become a salaried official and embrace longevity’ .

Qi Baishi (齊白石) (1864 – 1957) Monkey and the Peach (桃猴圖)
Qi Baishi (齊白石) (1864 – 1957) Monkey holding a (stolen) peach (桃猴圖)
Qi Baishi (齊白石) (1864 – 1957) White Gibbon offering Peach (白猿獻壽圖)
Qi Baishi (齊白石) (1864 – 1957) White Gibbon offering Peach (白猿獻壽圖)

 

Gāo Zhíqiān(高植謙) (1947 – 2005) 瑞雪圖
Gāo Zhíqiān (高植謙) (1947 – 2005) Two Monkeys in the Snow 瑞雪圖
Gao Qifeng (高奇峰)(1889-1933) Monkey in Snow (孤猿啼雪) Dated 1910 Collection of the Art Museum The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Gao Qifeng (高奇峰)(1889-1933)
Monkey in Snow (孤猿啼雪)
Dated 1910
Collection of the Art Museum
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

 

 

Bibliography :

http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/monkey.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_(zodiac)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Wukong

Bjaaland Welch, Patricia (2008) Chinese Art- A guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery Tuttle Publishing ISBN: 978-08048-3864-1

陳相鋒 陳姿娟 (2012) 画室必備 – 中國画技法圖典 蔬果篇 湖北美術出版社

户辅圣 (2003) 中国画历代名家技法图典 花鸟编 () 上海书画出版社

陳永鏗 (2012) 高植謙畫選  嶺南美術出社 ISBN: 978-7-5362-4984-4

傅嘉儀 (2002) 中國瓦當藝術 上海書店出版社 ISBN: 7-80622-868-9/J.308

 

 

 

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