The three wise monkeys, sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of "do no evil". He may be shown crossing his arms.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action. In the Western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.
In English, the monkeys' names are often given as Mizaru, Mikazaru,and Mazaru, but the last two names were corrupted from the Japanese originals.
The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th century carving over a door o...