Seated Guanyin in Unction Mudra on a Lotus
Item No. 16854
18th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
10" x 4.75" x 3.5"
( 25.4 x 12.065 x 8.89 cm)
(H x W x D)
Bodhisattva sits and displays a very rare mudra, the mudra of unction (Uttarabbodhi mudra or Kuan-ting-yin in Chinese, kanjo-in in Japanese and abhiseka(na)-mudra in Sanskrit), one of the gestures that accompanies the ceremony of unction.
This mudra is used only for ritual consecration and is accomplished by placing the palms of the hands together and in front and clasping the fingers together with the index fingers against each other raised, pointing upwards and touching at the top. Usually used by esoteric sects, the unction ceremony is a declaration and affirmation that the neophyte or novice monk has accomplished steps towards bodhi (enlightenment) and will continually work step by step on the path to supreme enlightenment. This ceremony can be traced to the universal custom of anointing the head with oil. This was already practiced by the kings in ancient India, and there was long a close association of a ceremony of unction with royal consecration, and the use of water taken from the Four Great Oceans also symbolized the universality of the king’s reign
The ceremony of unction became corrupted and co-opted over the centuries toward diverse and unconnected ends including the assurance of happiness, progeny, health, riches and more, but within Esoteric Buddhism it developed with a definite spiritual sense and became associated with a magical-religious rite in which the requires aptitude, the Five Knowledges of the Buddha are symbolically granted to the neophyte by the use of unction water in the ceremony (see E. Dale Saunders, Mudra,, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. 111-112).
The Bodhisattva is seated in padmasana on two-tiered lotus throne and wears a three-lobed crown from which a scarf extends down each side of to the robe. The copper-colored lacquer over wood with copper-gilt on the face is characteristic of far Southern China and Vietnam There in minor losses to the underside of base.