Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin)
Unknown artist, Chinese
Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin), ca.575 CE
Stone with traces of pigment
135 x 36.8 x 23 cm (53 1/8 x 14 1/2 x 9 1/16 inches)
Gift of Mr. John M. Crawford 1986.028
In Mahayana Buddhist belief, a bodhisattva (enlightenment being) is one who compassionately refrains from entering the state of perpetual enlightenment in order to assist others in achieving it. This serene figure, with simple modeling, gracefully draped garments, cascading jewelry, a crown, and finely carved facial features, conveys a sense of conviction and strength. The form’s pronounced verticality is offset somewhat by the body’s forward sway, a stylistic change that foreshadowed the more tactile approach to the carving of the body during the Tang Dynasty (618—906). Although missing its arms, this figure is carved on both front and back, which is somewhat unusual for Chinese Buddhist sculpture. The bodhisattva’s air of noble detachment from this world effectively communicates his message of salvation.