Culture and folklore about gibbons

In traditional Thai folklore, gibbons are thought to be the reincarnation of disappointed lovers. The source of their mournful songs is believed to be the spirit of a grieving princess calling out to her lost husband in a hopeless yet never-ending search for him. What originally fueled this famous belief is the fact that lar gibbons (Hylobates lar), inhabitants of the rain forests found throughout Thailand, can often be heard singing, from the treetops, “Pua, pua, pua,” or a similar sounding series of whoops and wails. Pua is the Thai word (albeit somewhat vulgar) for husband. More here

Dawn is often not fully visible in the jungle. The Iban, a people from Papua New Guinea, call this time of the day, Empliau bebungi – the Calling of the Gibbon. Collected  from Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O’Hanlon, 1987. More here

Gibbons in the traditional Chinese culture

From Wikipedia

The Sinologist Robert van Gulik concluded that gibbons were widespread in Central and Southern China until at least the Song Dynasty, and furthermore, based on an analysis of references to primates in Chinese literature and their portrayal in Chinese paintings, that the Chinese word yuán (?) referred specifically to gibbons until they were extirpated throughout most of the country due to habitat destruction (circa 14th century). In modern usage, however, yuán is a generic word for ape. Early Chinese writers viewed the “noble” gibbons, gracefully moving high in the treetops, as the “gentlemen” (j?nz?, ??) of the forests, in contrast to the greedy macaques, attracted by human food. The Taoists ascribed occult properties to gibbons, believing them to be able to live a thousand years and to turn into humans.[8]

Gibbon figurines as old as from the 3-4th century BCE (the Zhou Dynasty) have been found in China. Later on, gibbons became a popular object for Chinese painters, especially during the Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty, when Yì Yuánjí and Mùq? F?cháng excelled in painting these apes. From Chinese cultural influence, the Zen motif of the “gibbon grasping at the reflection of the moon in the water” became popular in Japanese art as well, even though gibbons have never occurred naturally in Japan