About ten years ago, I bought this
little monkey figurine in a charity shop. (Here's a front
view.) It's about 3.5 cm high, is carved from some kind of stone and has a hole
in its base. I figured it was a tourist souvenir from somewhere. I put it in my living room and didn't think much about it.
Yesterday, I went to this
exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. A large part of it consists of amulets collected by the folklorist Edward Lovett in London during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the amulets was a little monkey very like my own, about the same size and style of carving, and in a similar "praying" pose. It was in a category by itself, and labelled "Jade Monkey of Silence." The other categories had captions explaining them in more detail, and describing particular objects, but this one had only that phrase: "Jade Monkey of Silence."
I'm pretty sure my monkey isn't jade (it's the wrong colour, and I doubt the charity shop would have sold it for a pound if it were jade), but otherwise it's so similar that I think it may have been made around the same time and for the same purpose. I asked the staff member on duty at the Wellcome Collection if she could provide any more information; she was quite willing to help but couldn't find anything. I also looked at some books on magic and folklore, but again, no luck. An obvious place to look would be Lovett's own book Magic in Modern London
, but it's out of print and offline, and used copies are expensive as hell.
I don't expect my monkey to be worth a huge amount of money or anything, but I am curious about the story behind it. Does anyone have any idea of when, where and why it might have been made, or suggestions of where I could look for more information? Thank you!
(P.S. I did think of the "speak no evil" monkey, of course -- but is it normal to have one of the Three Wise Monkeys on its own? And why would someone have used it as a good luck charm?)
(P.P.S. I'm probably going to write a blog post about this too, so if you google "jade monkey of silence" in a couple of days, that might come up. I hope that's OK -- I wanted to explore as many avenues as possible, and figured AskMeFi has slightly
more readers than my blog.)