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Guanyin Seated in Royal Ease

1271-1368
Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

This sculpture, with its relaxed pose and serene expression, makes it is easy to understand why Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, was one of the most popular and widely worshiped Buddhist deities in China. As with other bodhisattvas, Guanyin delayed her own enlightenment in order to help others.


The name of this particular representation, Water Moon Guanyin, appears after the 1100s and refers to a chapter in the Avatamsaka Sūtra (Flower Garland Sutra). The text tells how Guanyin sits in a rocky grotto meditating on the reflection of the moon on the water, a metaphor for the illusory nature of all things and a reminder not to be overly attached to earthly matters.


On the figure’s back is a rectangular opening where relics and other holy materials would have been consecrated in order to “activate” the deity.

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Object Details

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