Large Bronze Ming Guanyin
Large Bronze Ming Guanyin, with dark patina and few traces of gilding.
China, Ming dynasty,
Height 40 cm.
Guanyin (traditional Chinese: 觀音; simplified Chinese: 观音; pinyin: Guānyīn) is a Bodhisattva associated with compassion. She is the East Asian representation of Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर) and has been adopted by other Eastern religions, including Chinese folk religion. [note 1] She was first given the appellation “Goddess of Mercy” or “Mercy Goddess” by Jesuit missionaries in China. Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means “[The One Who] Perceives the Sounds of the World.” On the 19th day of the sixth lunar month, Guanyin’s attainment of Buddhahood is celebrated.
Some Buddhists believe that when one of their adherents departs from this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus, and then sent to the western pure land of Sukhāvatī. Guanyin is often referred to as the “most widely beloved Buddhist Divinity” with miraculous powers to assist all those who pray to her, as is mentioned in the Pumen chapter of Lotus Sutra and Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra.
Several large temples in East Asia are dedicated to Guanyin, including Shaolin Monastery, Longxing Temple, Puning Temple, Nanhai Guanyin Temple, Dharma Drum Mountain, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Shitennō-ji, Sensō-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Sanjūsangen-dō, and many others. Guanyin’s abode and bodhimaṇḍa in India is recorded as being on Mount Potalaka. With the localization of the belief in Guanyin, each area adopted their own Potalaka. In Chinese Buddhism, Mount Putuo is considered the bodhimaṇḍa of Guanyin. Naksansa is considered to be the Potalaka of Guanyin in Korea. Japan’s Potalaka is located at Fudarakusan-ji. Tibet’s Potalaka is the Potala Palace. Vietnam’s Potalaka is the Hương Temple.
There are several pilgrimage centers for Guanyin in East Asia. Putuoshan is the main pilgrimage site in China. There is a 33 temple Guanyin pilgrimage in Korea which includes Naksansa. In Japan, there are several pilgrimages associated with Guanyin. The oldest one of them is the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, a pilgrimage through 33 temples with Guanyin shrines. Guanyin is beloved by most Buddhist traditions in a nondenominational way and found in most Tibetan temples under the name Chenrézik (Wylie: Spyan ras gzigs). Guanyin is also beloved and worshipped in the temples in Nepal. The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar located in Patan is one example. Guanyin is also found in some influential Theravada temples such as Gangaramaya Temple, Kelaniya and Natha Devale nearby Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka; Guanyin can also be found in Thailand’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Huay Pla Kang (where the huge statue of her is often mistakenly called the “Big Buddha”) and Burma’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Statues of Guanyin are a widely depicted subject of Asian art and found in the Asian art sections of most museums in the world.