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16531

Guanyin in Meditation on Lucite
Item No. 16531

18th - 19th Century, Buddhist, China
Wood with Polychrome
31.5" x 13" x 10.5"
( 80.01 x 33.02 x 26.67 cm)
(H x W x D)

Guanyin sits in Dhyana, the meditation mudra that represents the attainment of spiritual perfection or enlightenment. Her hand rests in her lap with the right hand on top of the left palms facing upward and the delicately carved fingers extended with the tips of the thumbs touching to form a triangle. The triangle represents perfect physical and spiritual balance and symbolizes the Three Jewels (Triratna) of Buddhism: The Buddha, his Teachings (Dharma) and the religious community (Sangha). This position is reserved for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Her feet are depicted in the half lotus position (padmasana) with the feet beneath her robe.

Guanyin is depicted here as a beautiful, young woman with her eyes downcast in a serene expression. Her half-closed eyes are shaped as Lotus petals, and the brows are curved to resemble two bows arching over her eyes. These representations were made to enhance her image, as well as emphasize her serene, compassionate nature.

The long hair, finely carved where it frames the delicately modeled face, is piled upwards and tied in an elegant top knot behind the crown, also curls around her pendulous ears and flows into two braids, ending in three plaited tails resting on her shoulders. This depiction of elegantly styled, long hair represents Guanyin’s continued attachment to and presence in this world; the elongated earlobes symbolize her extraordinary wisdom and spiritual advancement.

Guanyin is companion to the Amitabha Buddha who presides over the Western Pure Land. As such she guides devotees, upon their deaths, to his blissful Western Pure Land, where they spend each day learning and living the Dharma and preparing for their ultimate enlightenment. Thus it is common to see an image of the Amitabha Buddha, in meditation, in the center of her crown, as in this image. The Amitabha is surrounded by what may be cloud form symbols representing the Western Paradise.

Guanyin is the most revered image, other than the Buddha, throughout Buddhist countries in Asia. Her appeal as the embodiment of Divine Feminine figure is apparent in this statue, which exemplifies the words of one scholar: “In her worship, the divine becomes suffused with beauty and grace, with love and mercy, with gentleness and wisdom.” (1)

This piece has had some restoration in the face and has been repainted there.

Sources:

Meyer McArthur, "Reading Buddhist Art," Thames and Hudson, London, 2002.

Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay, "Kuan Yin, Myths and Prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion," Thorson, London, 1995 (1)

Chun Fang Yu, "Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara," New York, Columbia University Press, 2001.

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