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7 - Monkey King in China: basis for a conservation policy?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2009

Agustín Fuentes
Affiliation:
Central Washington University, Ellensburg
Linda D. Wolfe
Affiliation:
East Carolina University
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Summary

Overview

All peoples construct ‘nature’. The division of human FROM nature is such a construct; the development of humanity as controller of nature is enshrined in the myths, legends and religious tales from all over the world. Nowhere, perhaps, is this theme more clearly presented than in the myth of Monkey King, Sun M'Hong (Cantonese) or Sun WuKong (Mandarin). Although his character and some of his exploits may derive from the great Hindu being Hanuman, his development throughout the ancient novel The Journey to the West metaphorically addresses the development of humanity in its conscious striving towards a higher state. The obvious physical similarity between monkey and human also serves as reminder of the fragile distance between humans and nature. Traditional respect for monkeys owes much to the place of Monkey King in cultural thinking.

In 1984, when I first surveyed the hybrid macaques of Hong Kong, many of the traditional values were very much in evidence. Gifts to Sun WuKong were made through his mortal manifestations; Buddhism, in its devotion of Fang Sheng, encouraged the release of monkeys into the forest and courtesies towards them in the form of gifts of fruits and vegetables. Times change, and the ambience that fosters appreciation for wildlife amongst humans redefines its values in terms of competition for scarce resources, especially land.

Type
Chapter
Information
Primates Face to Face
The Conservation Implications of Human-nonhuman Primate Interconnections
, pp. 137 - 162
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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