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Guanyin in Meditation on Lucite Base
Item No. 16119

18th - 19th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood with Polychrome and Gilt
16" x 11" x 7"
( 40.64 x 27.94 x 17.78 cm)
(H x W x D)

Guanyin sits in padmasana with the hands held in dhyana mudra-- --the mudra of meditation which symbolizes the attainment of spiritual perfection or enlightenment. Some of the gold gilt which covered the entire statue remains.

The elaborate three lobed crown is centered with an image of Buddha Amitabha,the constant companion to Guanyin set in an aureole like motif. With this representation,the statue is not only associated with the Buddha of Pure land Buddhism, but also provides the devotee greater access to this Buddha through devotion to Guanyin. According to one source, "Many figures of Kuan Yin can be identified by the presence of a small image of Amitabha in her crown. It is believed that as the merciful redemptress Kuan Yin expresses Amitabha's compassion in a more direct and personal way and prayers to her are answered more quickly."(geocities)

The full contemplative face has full lidded half closed eyes under arched eyebrows, broad nose, bud shaped lips and small double chin and framed by pendulous ears which flare out from the face. Large ears are said to represent an enlighten beings extraordinary wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. (McArthur p. 93) The traditional outer garment is open at the chest and reveals a pectoral like ornament around the neck, a skirt belted at the waist with long sleeves and falling in loose folds over his plain throne.

The back contains a vertical cavity used for placing sacred documents, including sutras and messages to ancestors, during an an eye opening ceremony performed by a monk to consecrate the carving. (Stevens p. ) The "bung" which is traditionally used to seal the cavity is missing revealing the documents which still remain inside. The piece has been set on a lucite stand.



John Blofeld, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin, Denver, Shambala Publications, 1978.

Anthony Flanagan, Buddhism: An Introduction: Buddhist Symbols,

Eloise Hart, “Kuan Yin: Goddess of Mercy, Friend of Mankind,” Sunrise Magazine, December, 1984/January, 1985.

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

Chun-Fang Yu, “Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara” in Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism 850-1850, Marsha Weidner, Ed. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1994, p.151-182.

Gill Farrer-Halls, The Feminine Face of Buddhism, Godsfield Press, Illinois, 2002.

Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art: An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols, London, Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Barbara Reed, “The Gender Symbolism of Kuan-yin Bodhisattva,” in Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender, in Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender, Jose Ignacio Cabezon, ed., State University of New York Press, Albany, 1992.

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