AGE: – Qing Dynasty
CONSTRUCTION: – Wood, possibly camphor wood
DESCRIPTION: – Qing Dynasty Kuan Yin Goddess of Mercy
HEIGHT: – 31cm
DEPTH: – 13cm
WEIGHT: – 1.7kg
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This Qing Dynasty Chinese Kuan Yin Goddess of Mercy was more than likely placed in a covered open shrine in a temple or household shrines often seen in small villages in South East Asia. She is a Buddhist deity revered by followers of both the Mahayana and Taoist religion and is also referred to as “Guan Yin”, “Goddess of Compassion” or “Bodhisattva”.
She is seen here seated in the attitude of royal ease, in a grotto or what would appear to be a tree, although it has a general shape of a Naga under which the Buddha is often depicted. A bird is perched on her right and a vase is held in her left hand and the right hand which is placed over her right knee is holding prayer beads. The base is representative of the Kuan Yin seated in the clouds, unfortunately deteriorated somewhat due to exposure to the elements.
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Remnants of the original coloured pigments (gesso) on the body and face remain. The wood is more than likely camphor wood which is easy to carve and resistant to termites, and is a wood that has been used for carvings in China for centuries. it is light and still used in carvings today.
This style is just one of around 80 variants, typically seen in southern China and South East Asian countries where there are large Chinese communities such as Malaysia and Singapore. Kuan yin (Guanyin) literally means “One who observes the sounds or cries of the world“, and is the most revered of all deities.
Reference to Kuan Yin’s beginnings by Pitt Rivers Museum:
“The Kuan Yin according to the sutras is the female counterpart of the male Bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara, although there are other stories from myth and legend related to her beginnings. The bodhisattva that originated in India around the eleventh century, as Avalokitesvara, came to be reinterpreted in China and Japan from the twelfth century. Avalokitesvara was originally depicted as a man, so is often seen wearing chest-revealing clothes and possibly even a moustache.
In China, Guanyin is usually perceived as a woman, though there are many signs of masculinity and some people have seen her as a gender less being. In more modern times she has increasingly been represented as a woman, possibly due to more interaction with ‘Western’ ideas of gender and ‘Marian influences’ from Christian iconography”.
Kuan Yin symbolizes the love, pity, compassion, empathy and kindness of an enlightened being. She is an important deity in the teachings and principles of Feng Shui, it is believed that she answers all prayers. She is sometimes seen holding a child or a vase which holds divine water to eliminate the sufferings of the poor and to free the mind from bad thoughts. Kuan Yin is also sometimes seen holding a lotus flower.