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Multi-Armed Guanyin
Item No. 16200

18th - 19th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood with Polychrome and Gilt
29.25" x 14" x 6.5"
( 74.295 x 35.56 x 16.51 cm)
(H x W x D)

Although it is extremely difficult to identify many of the Chinese Buddhist and Taoist deities, this very rare carving presents many of the characteristics of Chun-ti P’u-sa, a Tantric (Lamaist) female Bodhisattva which are described in Keith Stevens book "Chinese Gods" (1). According to Stevens, Chun-ti is the Bodhisattva of Light and is worshiped by Chinese Ch’an (Zen) Buddhists as a merciful Goddess and is often confused with Guanyin.

According to the legends, Chun-ti was summoned to Heaven to acquire the necessary skills to challenge K’ung Hsuan, one of the contestants for the dynastic throne, because she had attained the required degree of perfection on Earth. She was whisked aloft in a rainbow and, having acquired the skills necessary, reappeared in a cloud of fire with 24 heads and eighteen arms. Throwing a silken cord around her adversary’s throat, she turned K’ung Hsuan into a one-eyed red peacock on which she rode off to the Western Heavens.

As in many images, she is represented here with six arms. The two main hands are held with palms pressed together before the chest in prayer. The uppermost hands hold discs of the Sun and Moon respectively. She has one head with three faces. Chun-ti often has a third eye in the center of her forehead, a Taoist form. She is often depicted standing in long Buddhist robes with bare feet and a Bodhisattva’s crown, very similar to a representation of Guanyin. She is sometimes described as the “Mother of the Buddha …with one thousand eyes and arms and saves all beings from bitter suffering.”

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