The most frequently seen monkey in Japan is the indigenous Japanese macaque (nihonzaru). With their pink faces, grey-brown fur, and short tails, macaques are instantly recognizable, appearing in various forms of traditional Japanese culture. In the mid Edo period (1615–1868), such illustrious artists as Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800) and Soga Shōhaku (1730-1781) painted these monkeys with idiosyncratic charm. Works by
>> Mori Sosen * 1747 Nagasaki † 1821 Osaka
the renowned master of macaque painting, are a special highlight of this exhibition.
Another kind of "monkey" found in Japanese and Chinese art is the gibbon (tenagazaru), which is actually a kind of long-armed, long-legged ape. Though indigenous to China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, it became a common subject matter in medieval Japanese ink painting.
Also on view are handscrolls featuring monkey characters, lacquered netsuke (decorative toggles) with extraordinary monkey designs, and other works from Japan and China showing the prevalence of this creature in East Asian culture. (Text: Kyōto National Museum)