Chinese village hopes for year of profitable monkey business

Wed Feb 3, 2016 8:35am EST
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By Joseph Campbell

BAOWAN VILLAGE, China (Reuters) - During decades of political turmoil in China under Mao Zedong, monkeys were not trained or kept as pets, but often eaten.

But one village in rural Henan province, where the land is too hard and rough to grow crops, residents have for centuries relied on training performing monkeys to make money. And as the Year of the Monkey approaches, they are hoping for bumper business.

A small temple devoted to the deity of the Monkey King, a popular figure from Chinese folklore and literature, sits on the outskirts of Baowan.

"Since this will be the Year of the Monkey, and we will be putting on (monkey performance) competitions for tourists, we all need to visit this temple and burn some incense,” Zhang Zhijiu, a 60-year-old former monkey busker, said after praying.

Monkey breeding and raising is illegal across China without a proper license, but the 2,500 villagers of Baowan are an exception.

The animals, some wearing tight metal collars, are taught to ride bicycles and walk on stilts. One trainer was throwing daggers at a monkey balanced on a wooden board on a rolling cylinder.

The animal was deftly catching the daggers and putting them between its teeth.

Fan Haoran, 57, a trainer at Qilingang Monkey Farm who traveled the country monkey busking for decades, has been training monkeys since his youth. He says the key is to develop a relationship.   Continued...

A monkey rides a bicycle during a daily training session at a monkey farm in Baowan village, Xinye county of China’s central Henan province, February 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Jason Lee