What Is The Origin Of The Three Wise Monkeys?

The three wise monkeys are a pictorial maxim of a 17th-century carving over a door at the Tōshō-gū shrine in Japan that embody the proverb See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.

The Japanese macaques usually shown in the maxim are: Mizaru, who covers his eyes to see no evil; Kikazaru, who covers his ears to hear no evil; and Iwazaru, who covers his mouth to speak no evil.


The carvings by Hidari Jingoro are believed to represent the Code of Conduct by Confucius which depicts man’s life cycle, and is thought to originate from a Tendai-Buddhist legend in 8th century China.

The original teachings of Confucius say: look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety.