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Fifty-Three Compassionate Manifestations of Guanyin
From Volume 52: P'u Sa Hsiang T'u (Images of Bodhisattva)
Fifty-Three Compassionate Manifestations of Guanyin

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in China, Asia


Woodblock print; ink on paper

Sheet: 11 1/4 x 10 7/8 inches (28.6 x 27.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of J.W.N. Munthe, 1931

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Since being introduced to China in the 200s, different forms of the popular

Buddhist deity, Guanyin (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara), have been created by Chinese devotees and artists. An enlightened being who vowed to remain in this world to help others achieve enlightenment, the compassionate bodhisattva Guanyin can assume different forms in response to individual’s needs.

This woodblock is part of the book Fifty-Three Compassionate Manifestations of Guanyin, which was originally produced in the early 1600s, and contains images of Guanyin in his many different manifestations. Published to disseminate popular beliefs surrounding this deity, the book encompasses all the well-known forms such as White-robed, Water Moon, and Child-granting Guanyin, and also includes remarkably inventive versions of the deity appearing as the Buddha and even a European gentleman. Rendered in the fine-line (baimiao) technique associated with the celebrated painter of Buddhist figures, Ding Yunpeng (1547-1621), the illustrations are accompanied by an essay by Hu Yingling (1551-1602), a noted scholar who cited various stories demonstrating the efficacy of Guanyin.

The Museum’s nineteen printed images, each now mounted as an album leaf, depicts an image of Guanyin accompanied by a related Chan-Buddhist poem, which differs in composition from most other extant examples printed in the 1700s and 1800s. Unusual also are the many depictions of the Buddhist guardian, Weituo, and inscriptions stating that publication of this book was funded by a Buddhist follower, Hou Huai.