Qilingang Monkey Farm, located in the Baowan village of China's central Henan Province, is home to around 400 monkeys, all of whom are trained from sunrise to sunset and are forced to perform rigorous routines by their trainers.
Monkey breeding and raising is illegal throughout China but with a population of 2,500, the village of Baowan has become a rare exception. Locals have said that it has become a breeding ground for monkeys and their trainers, and has been for centuries, with "monkey busking" remaining to be a tradition since the pre-modern era.
The monkey is an important symbol of Baowan. Most of the village's land can't be used to grow proper crops to provide proper wages, thus villagers have traditionally relied on monkey busking to make a living. January and February are important months for the animal trainers, with the performance monkeys being in high demand for Chinese New Year celebrations. 2016 is an especially important year, because it is also the year of the monkey, making it vital that the monkeys are trained in time.
Outside the realm of the for-profit monkey farms such as Qilingang, there are residents who keep the monkeys as pets. Those who train, the animals tend to do so for circus performances and television variety shows across China; all of which are bred for captivity.
The training exercises include acrobatics, playing dead, knife throwing, bicycle riding and even mathematics.
Zhang Zhijie, 57, keeps a four year-old macaque tied on a leash just outside his residence. The macaque is the most common performance monkey in China and is the only species found in Baowan Village. Zhang comes from several generations of monkey trainers and has made a small fortune performing with monkeys across the country.
"It started from my grandfather, then my father, and then it was passed down onto me. Now, and back then, we would go out to perform (with monkeys). My kids studied in primary school, and then went to college – their education was completely paid for by money made from our monkey performances," he said. Zhang's children have not managed to carry on the family tradition of monkey performance.
This article was first published on February 3, 2016