The Three Wise Monkeys, sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are named Mizaru (who sees no evil), Kikazaru (who hears no evil) and Iwazaru (who speaks no evil).
The lesson these three monkeys represent are to be of good mind, speech and action. Sometimes in the Western world, the monkeys’ names are often given as Mizaru, Mikazaru, and Mazaru. The pictorial came to prominence when it was represented on a 17th century carving over a door at the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan. The philosophy behind the symbolism of the monkeys is said to have come to Japan from a Tendai-Buddhist legend that use the monkeys to represent man’s life cycle. The proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is called the “Golden Rule” in Japan and earlier depictions of the proverb show the monkeys with the six-armed deity Vajrakilaya teaching the Buddhist philosophy that is we do not hear, see or talk evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil.
In many interpretations they are seen as a way to avoid spreading evil and are used as a symbol to remind of protection, harmony and peace in the home.