Recently last month, Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, China documented the more than thirty types of monkeys that reside at their animal park. The stunning studio portraits, all photographed against a clean, white backdrop, show in detail the beauty and breathtaking variety of the many primates that the park care for.
Chimelong Safari Park’s collection of primates is currently China’s largest. Their Primate Kingdom includes spider monkeys, marmosets, orangutans, macaques, tamarins, baboons, and much more. For the arrival of the Year of the Monkey, the park has specially opened a new Monkey Park, which also boosts a new 10,000 square meter jungle, and plans many activities to celebrate the monkey.
Billed as the world’s largest animal theme park, Chimelong Safari Park is home to over 20,000 kinds of rare animals, and the park itself covers more than 1,333,340 square meters. Just in time for the upcoming Year of the Monkey, these portraits of primates reveal to us the vital spirit and beautiful diversity of our distant cousins.
The photographer, Wu Xin (also known as “Stone”), was coincidentally also born in the Year of the Monkey and loves monkeys. He has worked as a commercial photographer in the advertising industry in China for more than twenty years, and enjoys shooting animals and food photography most. In this series of portraits, he and the Chimelong Safari Park team have focused on capturing the expressions of the monkeys, allowing the viewer to peer into their souls.
For Wu Xin, shooting this series of monkey portraits was a new and interesting experience. He says, “I have never come into such close contact with so many completely different types of monkeys, let alone have the opportunity to shoot their portraits. They all came in so many different shapes and sizes, and had such different personalities.” When asked what the difference was between shooting monkeys and humans, he says that it is actually much easier for him to shoot the portraits of animals. He believes that animals have a simpler heart and soul, which makes it easier for him as a photographer to capture.
Which isn’t to say that shooting the portraits of monkeys didn’t also have its own challenges. Since some monkeys are fidgety and like to move around very fast, at times he could only capture what he could at a fast shutter speed of only a few hundredth of a second. Once when shooting a lemur, the monkey jumped directly onto his shoulder, before turning around and obediently returning to its original shooting position. Of all animals, the photographer has always felt closest to the monkey – they are after all our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. He says, “The feeling I get from monkeys is that they are lively, adorable, and very smart creatures. It only stands to reason that the Year of the Monkey will be a lively and exciting year.”
The monkey has enjoyed a significant role in Chinese culture for over 2,000 years. The Monkey King Sun Wukong, for example, is the main character from the 16th century Chinese classical novel, Journey to the West. One of the most beloved characters from Chinese literature, Sun Wukong has supernatural powers that he acquired from Taoist practices. He can run extremely fast, transform into another animals, cast spells, and can travel over 34,000 miles in just one somersault.
Monkeys have even influenced ancient Chinese martial arts. Monkey Kung Fu is a form of martial arts that incorporates the movements of monkeys and apes into some of its techniques. One variation of Monkey Kung Fu was developed near the end of the Qing dynasty in Northern China, when a legendary fighter named Kou Si studied the movements and mannerisms of monkeys, combining them with his own Di Tang style of fighting. He later called the style Da Sheng Men in honor of the Monkey King Sun Wukong.
The monkey also is the ninth of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, and people who are born under this sign are characterized by and known for their playfulness, mischievousness, and intellectual curiosity. Monkeys are also believed to be fond of practical jokes, and are quick-witted and sociable creatures. However, some of their negative traits include being stubborn, manipulative, and deceptive; they are believed also to have a tendency to be pranksters and opportunists.
Chinese Lunar New Year, which is based on the Chinese lunar calendar and not on the Gregorian calendar, starts this year on February 8. Also known as the Spring Festival, which is its direct translation from its Chinese name “春节”, celebrations traditionally start from the evening preceding the first day, and will last until the Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year is a major holiday for the Chinese and is an important occasion for Chinese families to come together for their annual reunion dinner. Families also traditionally use this time to clean the house, to sweep away ill fortune, and to make way for incoming good luck from the upcoming new year.
We at Neocha would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very happy Year of the Monkey. May your new year be full of prosperity and good luck!
Contributors: Leon Yan, David Yen
Photographer: Wu Xin
Images Courtesy of Chimelong Safari Park