Women and East Asian Art

Bodhisattva I

In Buddhism, Bodhisattva is broadly defined as those who have reached enlightenment, but chose to remain to help all the sentient beings. This piece is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. In China, this Bodhisattva is called Guanyin. This particular sculpture is larger in size at our current online exhibition. It stands at 36 ½ inches, however, its size does not detract from the detail displayed in the figure. The figure is made of wood, a common material for making Buddhist statues. Although the nose of the figure is chipped, exposing some of the wood, the facial details are very life like including the Urna. The image of the Guanyin became more feminine in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279) and this Bodhisattva became known as the Goddess of Mercy which fits the hand gestures that he presents. His raised hand on the left is showing the Karana Mudra, the gesture in which demons are expelled. As the goddess of mercy, this is a fitting hand sign. She may be giving the people praying to him the release of their demons. Unlike a Buddha, who does not wear any jewelry, this Bodhisattva is wearing an elegant head piece with a floral design which is impressively carved out of the wood. Under the headpiece her individual strains of hair neatly weaved along his forehead. One similarity between the Buddha and Bodhisattva is the elongated earlobe which is reminiscent of the historical Buddha’s princely life before he left the palace to seek for enlightenment. Buddha is usually depicted as wearing no jewelry to show his renunciation of the mundane life, but Bodhisattva usually wears elaborate ornaments. Here the Avalokiteshvara in the current exhibition is wearing a very elegant neck piece that covers his whole chest and leads down to a floral medallion covering his stomach. The same piece of jewelry then travels all the way down to her feet in three vertical strands. One thing that is very prominent in this figure is the height, his clothes and jewelry cascade down his body in long strands which emphasize the height and slim waist of his figure. Also, the lotus throne attributes to his height because it is a smaller throne with the leaves pointed up at his tall figure.

Tim Carlson


Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

© 2021 Women and East Asian Art

Theme by Anders Norén
Academic Technology services: GIS | Media Center | Language Exchange