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Monkey see, humans do

By Erik Nilsson | China Daily | Updated: 2016-01-25 07:43

Monkey see, humans do

Tibetan macaques in Sichuan's Emei Mountains. [Photos by Wen Zhenxiao/Huang Yiming/Zhao Renbao/Liu Bingsheng/China Daily]

"Emei's elves" are thieves. Indeed, it wasn't my wife rustling through the pack on my back.

It was a Tibetan macaque.

(My spouse, for the record, is human.)

The animal was up to its furry armpit, swishing around for the peanuts, in my bag.

I asked Carol what she wanted-then noticed her some distance away.

I turned around to find myself staring into its eyes.

Not hers.

A tug-of-war ensued.

I guess it makes sense you'd wield upper body strength disproportionate to your size if you performed treetop acrobatics all day.

(I still won. Barely.)

The monkeys on Sichuan province's Emei Mountains are colloquially known as "little beggars".

More like "little burglars".

That said, I chased another species out of our tree house in Yunnan province's Xishuangbanna before it could snatch anything.

Primates flash-flooded around-sometimes over-our feet at Qianling Mountain Park in Guizhou province's capital, Guiyang, where they're the main attraction. Some napped while limpidly draped over signs advertising their presence, without any sense of irony.

We Homo sapiens perhaps love monkeys because they sway from a nearby branch of our evolutionary tree.

They're cousins that call for family reunions, typically via ecotourism.

China is home to about a dozen species-plus one ape group, the gibbon-that entice travelers every year.

They hold a special place in Chinese culture-making the cut of the 12 creatures esteemed as worthy of zodiac reverence.

In the spirit of the Year of the Monkey that starts in two weeks, we explore the country's best destinations to visit the primates that climb close to us up the web of life.

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