seated Buddha; gilt and red and blue paint

The Bodhisattva Guanyin, late 11th-early 12th century

Unknown artist, expand_more

A bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has delayed entering paradise in order to help others attain enlightenment. This figure represents the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, known to the Chinese as Guanshiyin (later also as Guanyin), which means “he who observes the sounds of the world”—including cries for help. In China, Guanyin is widely worshipped as a “goddess of mercy and compassion,” a savior in both the physical and spiritual sense. In popular folklore, reciting the bodhisattva’s name during disaster would bring relief.

Seated in the lotus position, this figure wears the silk garments and gold jewelry befitting a bodhisattva. The elaborate hairstyle was originally encased by a gilt metal crown, now missing. The gesture of both hands turned up with thumbs touching the middle fingers is perhaps that of discourse or argumentation. Carved during the last creative epoch of Chinese Buddhist sculpture, it expresses the new humanism of the day as well as the gentle, benign calm of near enlightenment.



The Bodhisattva Kuan-Yin
The Bodhisattva Guanyin
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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seated Buddha; gilt and red and blue paint