Monkey Symbolism in Chinese Culture

 Navy Blue Chinoiserie Toile Monkey Art Print

Ever wondered what the roll of monkeys is in Chinese history?

The Monkey is the 9th of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Monkeys are known for their cleverness, so many Chinese try to give birth in a year that aligns with the Monkey zodiac (the year of the Monkey). If you're looking to have a baby in that year, look to give birth in 2028! 

1992 the Chinese Zodiac is Monkey


Two monkeys that you might have seen depicted in antique Chinese paintings could be gibbons & macaques. The below painting depicts gibbons (type of monkey) at play. This was dated to be from 1427.

Gibbons at Play Chinese Monkey Painting

Gibbons at play (c. 1427) by the Xuande Emperor,
the fifth emperor of the Ming dynasty of China.


There is a 2018 recent historical find that shows the role that Gibbons could have played as a pet:

"Gibbons (family Hylobatidae) and their perceived ‘noble’ characteristics made them symbols of scholar-officials, and they became high-status pets from the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). The tomb in which the remains of Junzi imperialis were found may have belonged to Lady Xia, grandmother of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC), the leader who ordered the building of the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors.

The tomb, discovered in 2004 at Shenheyuan, Xi’an, was found to contain twelve pits with animal remains. In one of the pits, archaeologists found skeletons of a leopard, a lynx, an Asiatic black bear, a crane, domestic mammals and birds, and a partial facial skeleton of a gibbon."

-Science News Extinct Gibbon Found in 2250-year-old Tomb of Chinese Noblewoman


Fast forward to modern day chinoiserie decor styling, monkeys are used in all sorts of ways to enhance designs & celebrate their symbolism in Chinese culture. Many artists show monkeys holding a parasol (a light umbrella to shield oneself from the sun) or climbing within a toile design. 


Check out some of the PBK Chinoiserie Monkey Designs

Green Chinoiserie Monkey Art Print

Green and Blue Monkeying Around Art Print:


Blue Chinoiserie Monkey Art Print

Blue and White Monkeying Around Art Print


Chinoiserie Monkeys Parasols Art Print

Yellow Chinoiserie Monkey Art Print


Blue and White Toile Chinoiserie Monkey with Umbrella

Navy Blue Chinoiserie Monkey Art Print


Pink and Orange Chinoiserie Monkey with Parasol

Pink Chinoiserie Monkey with Umbrella Art Print





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