Monkeys are believed to be flexible, quick-witted and versatile with a love of sport and other active pursuits. Talented problem solvers, they are self-assured, sociable and innovative. They have a strong desire for knowledge and have excellent memories. When communicating, they hate to be controlled and may appear somewhat arrogant, impatient and mouthy.
Other faults may include jealousy and suspiciousness. Furthermore they may tend to look down upon others.
Famous monkeys include singer songwriters Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Celine Dion and Miley Cyrus. There are several monkey actors amongst them Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Daniel Craig and Michael Douglas while Empress Wu Zetian of China’s Tang Dynasty is amongst several monkey rulers.
Idioms & phrases
The Monkey, Hóu (猴), occurs in many Chinese tales and idioms. One well known idiom refers to the killing of a chicken to scare the monkey (杀鸡儆猴, shā jī jìng hóu). Its means to punish an individual as an example to others, or perhaps more simply used as a warning to others.
Another idiom to do with wrong-doers is the phrase lóng niǎo kǎn yuán (笼鸟槛猿) literally translating as “bird in a basket, monkey in a cage” it describes someone who is a prisoner or person with limited freedom. Note however that the character for monkey (猴) is replaced by 猿 (yuán) which can be used for ape or monkey.
Shù dǎo húsūn sàn (树倒猢狲散) is another phrase used in Chinese which translates as “when the tree falls, the monkeys scatter” and has the same meaning as the English idiom describing “rats deserting a sinking ship”. In China it may also be used to describe fair-weather friends.
Another idiom which also refers to a monkey is dà nào tiān gōng (大闹天宫). Once again the character for monkey is omitted but it refers to a monkey wreaking havoc in heaven and is drawn from a story about the Monkey King Sun Wukong from the novel Journey to the West. The phrase can be used to simply describe “havoc” or “chaos”. [Pictured above is the Monkey King, as portrayed in China's famous Beijing Opera]
Reflecting a similar meaning is xīn yuán yì mǎ (心猿意马). Literally “heart like a frisky monkey, mind like a cantering horse” it may be transliterated to mean to have ants in one’s pants, or perhaps more simply hyperactive, adventurous or uncontrollable.
One phrase that describes the monkey character is mù hóu ér guān (沐猴而冠) which literally translates as “a monkey wearing a crown” but is used to describe a worthless person dressed in imposing attire.
Another idiom that perhaps reflects a monkey’s arrogance is shān zhōng wú lǎo hǔ, hóuzi chēng dà wáng (山中无老虎，猴子称大王) which translates as “when the tigers are not in the mountains, the monkey becomes king”. Its English equivalent might be “when the cat’s away, the mice play”.
Unsure how long something might last? Then the Chinese idiom hóu nián mǎ yuè (猴年马月) might help which literally translates as “monkey year, horse month” but is used to mean “god knows how long”.
What we can be sure of is that we'll be back soon to talk about the rooster....