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Seated Guanyin with Aureole
Item No. 16803

18th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
20.25" x 10" x 6"
( 51.435 x 25.4 x 15.24 cm)
(H x W x D)

This finely carved and highly decorative Guanyin is depicted here as a male bodhisattva seated in dhyana mudra with his hands in his lap in meditation with his thumbs touching represent the triratna, the three gems of Buddhism, the Buddha, the Sangha (community of monks) and the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha). He holds a book which represents the Lotus Sutra, which refer to Guanyin’s origins as it contains a chapter on Guanyin, and also the dharma or teachings of the Buddha which she spreads to her devotees as well as the sutra (Buddhist text) which Miao Shan, one of her manifestations is said to have constantly recited.

His feet, covered by his flowing robe, are in padmasana, the lotus position. His lyrically caved three part robe opens at the chest to reveal a pendant and high waisted skirt tied with a ribbon.

He wears a large three tiered crown centered by a deeply and well carved seated image of the Buddha Amitabha set off by streams of carved radiating band representing the light of Buddhism. In Pure Land Buddhism, Guanyin is believed to be a constant companion to the Buddha Amitabha who leads the deceased who have led a good life to the Western Paradise where they will study with the Amitabha Buddha to reach their enlightenment.

He sits on an elaborate multi-tied waisted pedestal throne attached to a large pointed aureole with bands of radiating red, green and gold pigment. Enlightened beings such as Buddhas, bodhisattvas or other significant deities are often enframed by haloes which indicate their divine status (McArthur p. 101) Known as aureoles in Buddhism and Hinduism, they can be small round representations which surround the head, or larger more elaborate ones. Larger aureoles which extend around the entire body and generally boat shaped with a pointed tip at the top are referred to as mandorlas, as in this image.

Aureoles have been used to indicate the “divinity or saintliness” of an enlightened being (bella tereno) in many of the major religious of the world. They are one of the six main iconographic themes in Buddhism, especially I esoteric Buddhism, and were used symbolically in the earliest times of Buddhism to symbolize the Buddha when use of an image of the Buddha himself was considered sacrilegious. The six principle thematic elements include “asanas, aureoles, mandalas, mudras, thrones, and implements and accessories of the deities. (bellatereno).

Aureoles represent not only the state of sanctity of the enlightened beings place before them, but also the divine energy emanating from the deity. According to Bunce (p. 23) “The emanation of light which is a halo “is a result of a great accumulation of the vital fluid, vital essence in the sphere of enlightenment through meditation… This accumulation allows for the ease of communication with the Divine Absolute, i.e., a state of one with the Divine. As such, the glory of this union manifests itself in an aura of brilliant light.”

The image is good condition, although there has been some wear to the base, age cracks and loss of lacquer covering. Nonetheless, it is precisely these signs of aging one should be looking for in selecting a genuine piece. These imperfections are slight and contribute to the overall charm of the piece. It is mounted on a lucite base.


Fredrick W. Bunce, A Dictionary of Buddhist and Hindu Iconography, D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd, New Delhi 2001

Anthony Flanagan, Buddhism: An Introduction: Buddhist Symbols,

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