Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Mercy, was transformed into a woman in China sometime during the Song dynasty (960–1279). As Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, she has been widely worshipped in China through the ages, and her worship continues to the present.
Guanyin sits with her legs folded in meditation. Her right hand is raised in the gesture of holding a branch of willow, and her left hand, lowered, once held a bottle of ambrosia, as indicated by a tiny hole in her palm. (The willow branch is for dispensing the ambrosia.) Her hair, piled up in a chignon, is covered with an elaborate crown, enclosing a small statue of Buddha Amitabha. This identifies the statue as Guanyin. Her eyes are downcast, and her expression is one of kindness and serenity. Two long tresses knotted and split into three locks flow down her shoulders. She wears earrings, and a necklace decorates her chest. Her lower garment fans out like a seat. Originally, the statue would have been supported by a lotus pedestal. The compact form and the square face are typical of images made during the Ming dynasty.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection
15th–16th century CE
H 48.6 cm