The three wise monkeys are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil”. He may be shown covering his abdomen or genital area, or crossing his arms.  There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action.
The philosophy behind the symbolism of the monkeys is said to have come to Japan from a Tendai-Buddhist legend that use the monkeys to represent man’s life cycle.  The proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is called the “Golden Rule” in Japan and earlier depictions of the proverb show the monkeys with the six-armed deity Vajrakilaya teaching the Buddhist philosophy that is we do not hear, see or talk evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil.
In many interpretations they are seen as a way to avoid spreading evil and are used as a symbol to remind of protection, harmony and peace in the home.

The three wise monkeys are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil”. He may be shown covering his abdomen or genital area, or crossing his arms.

There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action.

The philosophy behind the symbolism of the monkeys is said to have come to Japan from a Tendai-Buddhist legend that use the monkeys to represent man’s life cycle.  The proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is called the “Golden Rule” in Japan and earlier depictions of the proverb show the monkeys with the six-armed deity Vajrakilaya teaching the Buddhist philosophy that is we do not hear, see or talk evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil.

In many interpretations they are seen as a way to avoid spreading evil and are used as a symbol to remind of protection, harmony and peace in the home.

Posted on December 2nd at 4:17 PM
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