Ink Monkey

Small Primate of East Asia.

Etymology: So named because it had been trained by Chinese schol ars to grind and prepare ink, turn manuscript pages, and fetch brushes when needed.

Variant name: Pen monkey. Physical description: Length, 4-5 inches. Soft, jet-bl ack fur. Scarl et eyes.

Behavior: Intelligent enough to be trained as a scribal assistant. Sleeps in the scholar's desk drawer or brush pot. Drinks the india ink l eft over when the scholar is finished writing. Distribution: China.

Significant sightings: Used by scholars from 2000 B.C to at least the time of Zhu Xi (a.D. 1130-1200).

A news item in the Chinese People's Daily of April 22, 1996, announced the rediscovery of the Ink monkey in the Wuyi Shan Mountains, Fujian Province, China. Beyond noting that the animal was no larger than a mouse and weighed 7 ounces, no other details were released. However, the story may actually refer to an earlier announcement of the discovery in the Yuanqu basin, southern Shanxi Province, of a mandible of the fossil Eosimias centennicus, a tarsier-like primate weighing 3.5 ounces that lived in the Eocene, 40 million years ago. Possible explanations:

(1) The Sl ow l oris (Nycticebus coucang), suggested by Cyril Rosen, is found in southern China and Indonesia and grows up to 15 inches l ong.

(2) An unknown species of Tarsier (Tarsius spp.) indigenous to China, perhaps even a surviving Eosimias centennicus. First discovered in May 1995 by Chris Beard, this primate's chin was deep and robust like a monkey's, and its canine teeth projected

246 imap umassoursua high above the others. Sources: Wal ter Henry Medhurst, A Glance at the Interior ofChina Obtained during a Journey through the Silk and Green Tea Districts Taken in 1845 (Shanghai, China: Mission Press, 1849); Evangeline D. Edwards, ed., The Dragon Book (London: William Hodge, 1938), p. 149; Jonathan Mirsky, "Ink Monkey of Ancient China Is Rediscovered," Times (London), April 23, 1996; Karl Shuker, "A Real Pen and Ink," Fortean Times, no. 90 (September 1996): 44; Chris Beard, Searching for Our Primate Ancestors in China, http://www.chineseprehistory.org/beard.htm.

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