Image of Guanyin in Meditation
Item No. 16250
18th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
15.5" x 7.5" x 4.75"
( 39.37 x 19.05 x 12.065 cm)
(H x W x D)
Guanyin sits in padmasana with the hands held in dhyana mudra, right hand over the left,the mudra of meditation which symbolizes the attainment of spiritual perfection or enlightenment. Most of the gold gilt which covered the entire statue other than the face remains. The extremely elaborated five lobed crown has a wide border with carved squares are the top and bottom edges and is centered with an image of Buddha Amitabha, the constant companion to Guanyin. The full, elongated oval face is finely carved with well defined features. The peaceful and contemplative expression is emphasized by the full lidded half closed eyes under arched eyebrows, full, wide and well articulated nose, red-painted bud-shaped lips, and small double chin, while the face is framed by pendulous ears and large hanging lobes. Carved locks of hair also frame the face and are pulled back over the earlobes, are placed atop the head in a high chignon, while plaited braids also extend down the shoulders.
The traditional outer garment is open at the chest revealing a necklace-like pectoral decoration round the neck, a skirt double-belted at the waist and long and very wide sleeves that fall in loose folds over the plain throne. The throne itself is covered with a carved ritual cloth that falls below Guanyin in long arched folds and pleats. The back of the deity contains a vertical cavity used for placing sacred documents, including sutras and messages to ancestors, during an an "eye opening ceremony" that would have been performed by a Buddhist monk to consecrate the carving and entice the deity to occupy the statue and bring favor to the family who commissioned its manufacture and the temple of home shrine that it occupied. There is a relatively flat piece of wood called a "bung" that is traditionally used to seal the cavity, but it is not clear whether this bung is original to the piece or has shrunk over time. Given the quality of the carving it probably once belonged to a family of means. It still is a powerful and spiritual piece, although there are cracks due to its age, minor losses to the crown, hair and stand and normal but considerable cracking and some flaking of the lacquer surface.