Guanyin in Vitarka on Multi-tiered Lotus
Item No. 5306
18th - 19th Century, Buddhist, China
37" x 18" x 11"
( 93.98 x 45.72 x 27.94 cm)
(H x W x D)
This wood carved image represents the White Clad Guanyin, the most famous and widespread image of Guanyin during the Ming and later Ch’ing dynasties. The White Clad Guanyin is depicted as a beautiful you woman draped in white with her head covered in a hood-like garment. In this style she is both a serene beauty and compassion incarnate. Her eyes are cast down, almost closed in contemplation.
White Clad Guanyin is often seated as she is here, on a large three tiered lotus flower, the Buddhist symbol of the flowering of the mind and a symbol that represents freedom from the murkier elements of this world. Just as the lotus flower is rooted in the mud and dank waters of the pool and flowers only in the light, so through Buddhist teachings can the individual reach enlightenment, especially if helped by a compassionate bodhisattva. The lotus also symbolizes purity and “spontaneous “ generation and, hence, divine birth.
Guanyin’s right hand is held up in vitarka mudra in which the fingers are extended upward, with the index finger bending and touching the tip of the thumb. This mudra represents the act of preaching, and the unadulterated wisdom and judgment of a deity. It is frequently held by Sakyamuni Buddha and by Guanyin to depict preaching in a discussion of the dharma and is a “gesture … believed to convince listeners of the truth of the dharma and lead them to conversion. (1) The right hand is in varada mudra, or gift giving mudra, with the palm open and facing forward. “The gesture represents the wish of the Buddha or Bodhisattva to devote itself to human salvation, and symbolizes charity, compassion, and fulfillment of wishes. (1).
Some of the original pigmentation remains on the face, garments and lotus.
(1) Meyer McArthur, "Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols," Thames and Hudson, London, 2002 p. 113)