Ivory needle holder

Ivory needle holder featuring a Japanese macaque seen from the back, with the face in profile. End to unscrew to open it. Needles are still present inside.

This monkey is present on all the Japanese archipelago, except in Hokkaido. In order to warm up, it sometimes takes baths in onsen, hot springs whose water comes from volcanic activity. To explain this phenomenon, there is a legend according to which during a harsh and freezing winter, the macaques were close to death. The samurais who were taking care of them asked owls for a solution. Each with their beak, took a monkey to the sun to warm them up. When they returned, they placed them on the snow which melted to create a hot spring.
The Japanese macaque is also likened to the Three Wisdom Monkeys. This theme illustrates a Japanese pictorial maxim, embodying the proverbial principle “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. It originates from the Confucian Talks written between 479 BC and 221: “Of what is contrary to propriety, do not look, do not listen, do not say, do not do”, before being taken up with the tale of a Buddhist monk of the Tiantai school, Do not see, do not hear, do not speak. But it is especially in Japan, where the tale was translated in the 8th century, that the proverb is associated with the figure of the monkey. In Japanese, the three monkeys are called Mizaru (見猿, Don’t see), Kikizaru (聞か猿, Don’t hear), and Iwazaru (言わ猿, Don’t speak). There is a pun between the negative form of the verb and the monkey saru.

Japan – Edo period (1603-1867)
Length : 9.5 cm (3 ½ in.)