Soapstone Monkey - Iwazaru

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Soapstone Monkey - Iwazaru

In the Analects of Confucius (C500 - C300, BCE) it is said that a wise man will not speak evil. The saying entered later Japanese culture, where the suffix "Do not" is -zaru; also the word for monkey. Hence, it is believed, the idea became pictured as a monkey raising his hands to his mouth

Iwazaru sat on my grandmother's mantleshelf for many years in mid twentieth century London and I must confess I'm not sure of his provenance. My guess is that he was mass-produced - albeit by hand - in China, early twentieth century

Oriental decoration was popularised in England in the early nineteenth century by George IV at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

At the Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria, 1st May 1851, there is a Chinese gentleman who is now believed to have been a merchant. Possibly he imported this kind of object

Iwazaru is sometimes portrayed disparagingly, hands clapped to mouth, as if he is ashamed or afraid of what he might say. The carving shown is more thoughtful. Possibly Conan Doyle or Sidney Paget had him in mind as a classic Sherlock Holmes pose

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