As a child I’d puzzled at the three wise monkey statue my friend had and the saying which went with it. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Was it about turning a blind eye? I didn’t think so. And I was right, there is some actual wisdom involved, according to Wikipedia, in that it was probably adapted from a Confucian phrase and brought to Japan via Tendai Buddhism.
It is said that the monkeys in the tiny statues were modelled after snow monkeys who live in the Japanese Alps. In a BBC TV programme we watched last week we saw one tribe of these monkeys soaking in a hot spring. The story is one monkey stumbled upon, or into, the heated water and others caught onto the idea. Gradually the soaking became part of the tribes practice.
Thanks to Wikipedia entry for Japanese Macaque
Sometimes there is a fourth monkey which depicts do no evil.