Guanyin (Bodhisattva) - Mid-Pacific Institute

Museum Studies

Guanyin (Bodhisattva)

Posted on December 11, 2015

by Nicholas Perih on December 11, 2015

- John Yen

China, Northern Song (960-1126) or Tangut Xia (1038-1227) dynasty, first half of the 11th century Wood with traces of pigment Purchase, 1927 (2400) This is a superb early example of one of the most popular iconographic styles for portraying Guanyin (Sanskrit Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The tenth and eleventh centuries saw an increasing naturalism in Chinese Buddhist sculpture, particularly in depictions of Guanyin, who around this time started to be most commonly shown in the position of "royal ease" ((mahaaraja lalitasana), often sitting on an outcropping of rock that suggested this Bodhisattva's island-mountain home of Potalaka. the sculpture originally might have been placed on such a rocky throne, perhaps as part of an entire sculptural wall suggesting a divine grotto. The naturalism of Song-dynasty sculpture led to increasingly feminized images of Guanyin, but in fact the deity remains male in the Academy's sculpture.

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