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Monkeys make mockery of monk's video

BEIJING – They say working with animals on screen can be maddeningly unpredictable, even with Zen-like patience. 

So there could be no better person to test that theory than a Buddhist monk, right? 

Yen Shen, a monk who serves as a director of the Cangzhou Buddhist Association in China’s Hebei province was at Mount Emei – a popular tourist site and home to a well-known Buddhist temple – in western Sichuan shooting a little video about the beauty of the region.

With lush forest and fog draped valleys behind him, Yen was speaking poetically about the beauty of the region and the need to take time to connect with nature. “As the years pass, let us bless our friends, let us bless everything,” he waxes on poetically in the video, “when the year’s pass let us bless spring and the autumn.”

That’s when the monkey business starts. (Click to watch the video above). 

Just 10 seconds into his monologue, what looks like a Tibetan macaque next to him starts grabbing Yen’s robes and playing with them. Showing incredible TV professional poise though, Yen continues talking about Buddhist spirituality without skipping a beat.

Then 1:30 into the video, two macaques run up and jump onto Yen, turning him into a human jungle gym. Yen appears momentarily frozen in panic, but recovers and then continues talking; ignoring the growing giggles and chatter of onlookers.

A third monkey joins in on the fun at 1:58, before someone hands one of the macaques what appears to be a cookie and pulls Yen out of the way.

Further attempts to continue the video are derailed as one monkey who will not be denied his 15 minutes of fame, perches itself next to Yen and starts clutching his robe, only letting go long enough to devour more biscuits handed to him just off screen by a helper.

As biscuit after biscuit is handed over to the ravenous monkey, Yen simply looks at him with seeming amusement, all while passersby yell advice on how to deal with the monkeys and urge him to look back up at the camera and continue.

The video has racked up almost 1 million hits since it was posted on Sina, the Chinese web site, Wednesday. Online commentators mostly express admiration for Yen’s ability to keep talking despite the distraction. Strangely though, many more commentators seemed interested in discussing the monk’s “strange” accent as much as the rambunctious macaques.

Regardless, a marvelous big screen debut by both man and monkeys.