Monkey Magic: A beguiling Meiji-era Bronze clock depicting a troop of Macaques


Our featured work of art for the month of May is this enchanting, late 19th Century Japanese, Bronze clock depicting a troop of Monkeys clambering over a fruit-laden Persimmon tree.



In this article we will look at the symbolism and hidden meaning found in this magical Meiji-era (1868-1912) work of art. We hope you enjoy the read and as always, you can click on any of the images in this feature to take a closer look.


The Japanese Macaque (the species of Monkey depicted in this clock) inhabit all of the Japanese islands apart from Hokkaido in the North. Throughout history, monkeys have been an ever-present in Japan, living amongst humans in both rural and suburban settings. However, in the last 100 years, with their habitat lost to industrial, commercial and residential developments, they have become limited to more remote, mountainous regions.




A popular subject in Japanese art, the Monkey is seen as a mediator between Humans and the Gods. They are believed to have the power to dispel evil spirits as well as to bring good fortune.



Monkeying around: An amusing Bronze and multi-metal Okimono depicting a well-dressed Monkey 


In both China and Japan, Monkeys were believed to protect Horses from illness and misadventure. It was thought that if you kept a monkey in  a stable, it would protect the horses inside  and scare off other animals. Because of this belief, farmers would entice them to their fields by leaving food out so the Monkeys would protect their crops.

In this work, the troop are a family of Macaques, playfully climbing over the tree. The young of the brood at Ground level accepting fruit from their Mother while the older, more adventurous offspring have reached the higher, more bountiful branches.



Despite the Persimmon being a humble common fruit tree that has existed in Japanese household gardens for centuries, the Japanese Persimmon bestowed upon it, the title “Kaki”, (which translates as “Fruit of the Gods.”)

Kaki can be enjoyed fresh, dried or stewed and “Kaki-No-Ha-Cha” is a popular Japanese tea made from the dried leaves of the Persimmon.



Tea-time: An elegant Japanese Iron tea kettle (Tetsubin) with Jade handle


The Persimmon enjoys great cultural significance in Japan. It is seen as a symbol of good luck, longevity and transformation. Often used in New Years celebrations both as a food-type and for decoration, it represents the hope of good health and good fortune for the year ahead.




By happy coincidence, one of our favourite Japanese Myths is the story of the Monkey and the Crab where both the Macaque and the Persimmon play starring roles. You can read our re-telling of this popular legend by clicking here.


The numbers on this clock-face are in Japanese and at some point in its life, it has been converted to run on electricity.




You can see more information about this work of art by clicking here. We hope you enjoyed this article. You can browse over 100 stories inspired by our collection of Chinese and Japanese Fine Art and Antiques by visiting our News and Blog page.