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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Start work on Friday for better luck? Sink or swing with the Monkey: Pay peanuts, get monkeys!

THE fifth day of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Friday, is the best day to start work in the Year of the Fire Monkey, China Press reported.

The best time to report to work on that day is from 5am to 11am and from 1pm to 3pm, according to Feng shui Master Wei Xuan.

However, Wei Xuan said it was not a good date to start work for those born in the Year of the Horse.

He said other good dates to start work are on Feb 15, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 27.

According to Chinese belief, a person will have a prosperous year if he or she starts work on an auspicious date and time at the beginning of the lunar calendar.

Wei Xuan also advised the employees to be dressed decently and not to be late on the first day to work as it will affect their luck.

Bosses and their employees should also give angpows to each other on the auspicious day, he said.

Sink or swing with the monkey

There’s a lot to learn about this simian which can be lovable and loathable in equal parts.

WELCOME to the third day of the Year of the Monkey!

I must say it’s a great relief to say goodbye to a wild and woolly Year of the Yang during which we witnessed much sheep-like behaviour and had quite a lot of nasty things rammed down our throats.

A year ago in this column, I shared that yang is Mandarin for a horned ruminant mammal which can mean either sheep (mianyang) or goat (shanyang).

I argued the case for celebrating the Year of the Goat as the animal has more attractive and positive traits than the sheep.

Sheep have been documented as dependent, nervous creatures that require close supervision and are known for being mindless followers.

Goats, however, are a lot smarter, independent, nimble-footed and full of fearless curiosity.

Well, as it turned out that while some Malaysians tried to be goat-like, there were more who were sheep-like and got spooked by scare-mongers who, as usual, used the race and religion cards, and the sheepish ones ended up bunching together even more tightly in fear and suspicion.

So, what now in the Year of the Monkey? What sort of traits does this simian have that can give us some pointers to go by?

But first, we should get some basics right. Just as we had to separate the goats from the sheep last year, I have learned there are 264 known species of monkeys, but the chimpanzee is not one of them. The chimp, like the orang utan and gorilla, is an ape. Monkeys are different from apes, the most obvious difference being apes don’t have tails. So, let’s not confuse monkeys with apes.

Primatologists will tell us that monkeys in the wild behave very much like humans. They are intelligent creatures with the capacity to learn, innovate and live in social structures.

According to, “the hierarchy of the social structure is very detailed. It doesn’t matter if there are only a few members or hundreds of them. They all have their role within that group”.

Interestingly, like humans in political parties, the monkeys can form smaller groups (what we would call factions) within the larger group. What’s more, if the monkeys aren’t happy about their social status within that group, they can leave and create a brand new group.

The similarities don’t end there.

Male monkeys frequently challenge the leaders of the group. Experts say this is to give better opportunities for breeding: a strong alpha male will sire sturdy offspring which will ensure the survival of the species. That happens in monkey groups but sadly doesn’t seem to have the same effect in political parties.

The monkey society is also admirable in that they have a welfare state: they “help each other with finding food, caring for the young, and staying protected” to quote

But like humans, they can be stressed if they lack food and shelter, which can lead to conflicts. But when there is plenty of food and they don’t feel threatened, monkeys are more likely to live in harmony with each other. Co-existence 101!

Perhaps it is because they are so human-like that the monkey is an animal that evokes both admiration and scorn.

In most African and Asian folk tales, it outsmarts its cunning adversaries like the crocodile and the shark, but in some, the overconfident primate takes the fall.

In Chinese culture, the animal is immortalised as Sun Wukong or the Monkey King, and the main character in the classic novel, Journey to the West.

Sun Wukong is depicted as highly intelligent, mischievous and so bold as to rebel against the Jade Emperor that results in his imprisonment by Buddha for 500 years. He is finally freed to allow him to atone for his sins by accompanying and protecting the monk Xuanzang on his perilous pilgrimage to India to obtain sacred Buddhist sutras to bring back to China.

Then there are Japan’s Three Wise Monkeys. That’s how they are seen – wise – in Asia because their desire to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil has roots in Confucianism which exhorts people to not look, listen or speak in a manner that is contrary to propriety.

But in Western societies, this behaviour has a negative connotation.

It’s associated with pretending to not see, hear or speak about the misconduct or impropriety of others. It’s similar to the idioms “turning a blind eye” and “looking the other way”.

I must say, I am pretty pleased with the Star Media Group’s clever take on the Three Wise Monkeys by turning a passive response to an active one.

The message urges Malaysians to see with clarity, hear with an open mind and speak with kindness.

These are actions we sorely need to connect with each other again. This is especially so in a year that has been predicted to be seriously difficult and challenging on many fronts.

After all, in simian terms, many people feel like they have already started the new year with a monkey (or two) on their back and wish the authorities will stop monkeying around with them.

And I would add, after months of witnessing a lot of monkey business, especially among politicians who seem to turn the state assemblies and Parliament into a monkey house, people would dearly like less monkey see, monkey do behaviour from both leaders and their supporters.

Of course, some people may see antics in the August House as more fun than a barrel of monkeys but I would prefer to throw a monkey’s wrench into that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, many of us keep hoping to return to a time when sanity, equilibrium, inclusiveness and trust and honour prevailed, but cynics will most likely reply, “I’ll be the monkey’s uncle!”

I have saved the last idiom which I think will resonate with a lot of my fellow citizens, which is a reminder to employers thinking of pay-cuts and hiring cheaper and that is “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

But for this festive season, enjoy your peanuts because the huasheng (as it is called in Mandarin) is an auspicious food representing good health and long life, as well as wealth and good fortune.

That’s the Chinese for you. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

By June H.L. Wong, So aunty, so what?

Aunty was gobsmacked when the pig character Zhu Bajie went missing from the Monkey King 2 movie posters and billboards in Malaysia. If this animal is the cause of so much sensitivity, how in the world are we going to celebrate the Year of the Pig in 2019? Send feedback to

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1 comment:

  1. Tips to Survive the Monkey year...

    1. Be yourself, never ape others.

    2. Be excited, but don't go bananas.

    3. Don't settle for peanuts.

    4. And have a swinging time.