Asian art

Buddhist deity: Guanyin

guan yin

View our Buddha Statues in our gallery

Buddhist deity, Guanyin is an East Asian bodhisattva associated with compassion as respected by Mahayana Buddhists. She is commonly known as the goddess of mercy. It is believed that when Guanyin's followers depart this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus, and then sent to the Western Pure Land of Sukhavati. It is mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and Karandavyuha Sutra that among the bodhisattvas, Guanyin regarded as the most widely beloved Buddhist Divinity.

It is generally accepted among East Asian followers that Bodhisattva Guanyin was originated as the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. It is often depicted as both male and female to show this figure's limitless transcendence beyond gender. But in Chinese folk religion, there are mythical accounts about Guanyin's origins that are not associated with the Avalokitesvara as described in Buddhist sutras.

Since the Buddhist deity, Guanyin is very popular in Asia among the devotees, she is known by many names. This is mainly due to the localization of the Buddhist deity Guanyin. Some of the names are: Kannon in Japan, Gwan-eum in Korea, Hokkien Kuan Im, Phra Mae Kuan Im or Chao Mae Kuan Im in Thailand, Kwan Yin Medaw in Burma, Quan Am in Vietnamese, Preah Mae Kun Ci Lem in Khmer, Natha Deviyo in Sinhalese, Chenrezik in Tibet, and Kab Yeeb in Hmong.

Legends of Guanyin

guan yin

There are various legends associated with Buddhist deity Guanyin. Some of them are as follows as:

One of the legends from the Complete Tale of Guanyin and the Southern Seas presents Guanyin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all the beings from samsara or cycle of rebirth. Despite the hard effort, she realized that unhappy beings were still present in the world. Thus while fulfilling the needs of so many people, her head split into eleven pieces. Acknowledging the hard effort of Guanyin, Amitabha gave her eleven heads to help her to do her job effectively and efficiently. Again when she heard the cries of the humans, and upon reaching to them her hands were also shattered into pieces. Once more Amitabha Buddha helped her and provided a thousand arms to let her reach out to those who are in need.

Another legend states that the story of the differently-abled boy, Shancai who had a deep interest to study the dharma. When Shancai knew the Buddhist teacher was on the rocky island of Putuo, he quickly journeyed there to learn the dharma. Despite his severe disability, the boy Shancai managed to find Guanyin. After the conversation with the boy, Guanyin wanted to test the interest of learning dharma of the boy. Therefore, Guanyin portrayed the illusion of three sword-wielding pirates running up the hill to attach her. The boy saw that Guanyin took off and dashed to the edge of a cliff. The boy found that still, they were chasing Guanyin. Therefore, the boy ran uphill. There the boy found that to save herself, Guanyin jumped over the edge of the cliff. The bandits were following the Guanyin. With the desire to save the teacher, he managed to crawl his way over the cliff edge and jumped off the cliff. Observing the behavior of Shancai, Guanyin was very impressed and halted him in the mid-air. Shancai found out that he could walk normally and he was no longer crippled. When he observed his face in the pool of water, he found that he had a very handsome face. From that day onwards, Guanyin taught Shancai the entire Dharma.

Iconography of Guanyin

guan yin

It is believed that Guanyin was represented as masculine figure prior to Song dynasty in China. But later on, the images were believed to be in accordance with the Lotus Sutra. In Lotus Sutra, Avalokitesvara is depicted as Buddhist deity having the supernatural power assumed to relieve suffering, and also has the power to grant children. Since the bodhisattva was more associated with the personification of compassion and kindness, and a mother goddess, the representation was further interpreted in an all-female form around the 12th century. In the modern period, Guanyin is most often represented as a beautiful, white-robed woman, a depiction which derives from the earlier Pandaravasini form.

In some Buddhist temples and monasteries, Guanyin's art and statues are occasionally portrayed as that of a young man dressed in Northern Song Buddhist robes and seated gracefully. He is represented as looking down symbolizing that Guanyin continues to watch over the world. It is also found that statues of Guanyin are most of the times depicted along with Buddha statues and statues of other Bodhisattvas.

View our collections of statues and arts in our gallery

Guanyin is also depicted as a young woman dressed in a flowing white robe. She usually wears neckless. In her left hand is a jar containing pure water, and the right holds a willow branch. Her crown usually depicts the image of Amitabha.

In some Buddhist art of China, Guanyin has often depicted either alone, standing atop a dragon, or accompanied by a white cockatoo and two children or two warriors. It is believed that the two children; boy named Shancai, and girl named Longnu; which is depicted in the Buddhist art along with Guanyin are her acolytes who came to her when she was meditating at Mount Putuo. The two warriors depicted along with Guanyin are the historical general Guan Yu from the late Han dynasty.

Share this page

Our collections of Buddha statues and arts

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

300 euro
Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

2,250 euro
Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

300 euro
Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

600 euro
Antique wooden Burmese temple

Antique wooden Burmese temple

1,250 euro
Bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

Bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

175 euro
Old bronze Nepali Lokeshwor

Old bronze Nepali Lokeshwor

750 euro
Antique bronze Thai Buddha on Naga snake

Antique bronze Thai Buddha on Naga snake

1,650 euro
Antique bronze Burmese Mandalay Buddha

Antique bronze Burmese Mandalay Buddha

950 euro
Large antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

Large antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

1,250 euro
Antique Thai bronze Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique Thai bronze Rattanakosin Buddha

300 euro
Pair antique Burmese Nat statues

Pair antique Burmese Nat statues

950 euro
High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

1,300 euro
Old bronze Nepali Padmasambhava statue

Old bronze Nepali Padmasambhava statue

300 euro
Special antique bronze Shan Buddha

Special antique bronze Shan Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

950 euro
Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

Antique bronze Thai Rattanakosin Buddha

275 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

700 euro
Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique bronze Mandalay Buddha statue

850 euro
Antique bronze Thai monk statue

Antique bronze Thai monk statue

1,550 euro
Old bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Medicine Buddha statue

1,550 euro
Special Burmese crowned Buddha statue

Special Burmese crowned Buddha statue

4,250 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

1,750 euro
Early antique Burmese Buddha statue

Early antique Burmese Buddha statue

5,500 euro
Antique bronze Thai Monk statue

Antique bronze Thai Monk statue

350 euro
Special large bronze Buddha statue

Special large bronze Buddha statue

15,500 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha

Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha

250 euro
Antique Burmese Buddha statue

Antique Burmese Buddha statue

125 euro
Antique Burmese crowned Buddha statue

Antique Burmese crowned Buddha statue

2,250 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

1,850 euro
arrow-right keyboard_arrow_right arrow-down chevron-down keyboard_arrow_down chevron-up arrow-left keyboard_arrow_left close menu search twitter facebook youtube-play linkedin envelope instagram google-plus pinterest whatsapp heart-o Wishlist share file-pdf-o printer trash