Robert L. Brown, "Telling the Story in Art of the Monkey’s Gift of Honey to the Buddha"


Fig. 1. Monkey’s Gift of Honey. Northern gateway, West pillar Stupa I, Sanchi. 25 B.C.E.—25 C.E. Photo: John C. Huntington, Courtesy of the Huntington Photographic Archives at The Ohio State University.


There are two versions of the story of the monkey’s gift of honey to the Buddha. One is found in a variety of textual sources, primarily Chinese and Tibetan texts that are translations of Indic texts. There are scattered representations in Indian art up until the eighth century when they become very popular in Indian art associated with the city of Vaiśalī. The second version of the honey gift is in Pali sources when a monkey presents the Buddha with honey in the Parileyyaka Forest, a story that is frequently depicted in the art of Thailand. My paper contrasts how the textual sources are used in these two versions and proposes two different modes of narration are at play.