The Great Ugly Monkey Controversy

Taipei residents are somewhat embarrassed, and slightly disgusted by the Taipei City Government’s choice of mascot for this year’s lantern festival. The ‘monkey-gourd’ uses the monkey theme to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, and the shape of a gourd to symbolize fertility. Artist Lin Shu-min (林書民) was inspired by the fertility symbolism because the low birth rate which plagues Taiwan and many other countries in the world. The Taipei City Government paid Lin NT$9 million (US$267,459) for the giant lantern.

The monkey-gourd lantern at the 2016 Taipei City Lantern Festival
A giant monkey lantern standing over 2 stories high was unveiled as the centerpiece of this year’s Lantern Festival in Taipei City.

Netizens noted a similarity with Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s inflatable giant yellow rubber duck which crazed the nation a couple of years ago, being exhibited in Kaoshiung Harbor, Keelung Harbor, and on a fish pond in Taoyuan. The duck led to a spate of imitations and unofficial merchandising.

But the duck was cute: the monkey-gourd is ugly. One Taiwanese lawyer described it as the “bastard son of a monkey and a duck,” in a Facebook comment.

Hong Kong Free Press raised the question: “Which monkey mascot is uglier: Taipei’s or Beijing’s in an article.

Then some social media users noticed an uncanny resemblance between Lin’s sculpture and a popular greeting card produced in Japan.

Monkey design by Japanese artist Izumi Hashiguchi Photos: Blog of Izumi Hashiguchi
Monkey design by Japanese artist Izumi Hashiguchi Photos: Blog of Izumi Hashiguchi

The Taipei City Government has named the monkey “Fulu” symbolizing fortune and prosperity and promised they will use “the latest lighting technology to present spectators with mesmerizing light shows in the evening.”

But today, Tuesday, February 16, the artist drew further criticism the paint he used began to run in the rain that has been falling the last few days. Repairmen were also seen applying tape to patch up the sculpture.

Internet users have been busy using photo-editing software to lampoon the ugly monkey.

The Fulu monkey as E.T, from the popular movie of the early 1980s
On of the many pictures circulating on the Internet that lampoon Taipei City’s Fulu Monkey. Photo from the message board.

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