Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lend Me A Hand, Please...

Guan Yin (Kwan Yin), Wood, China, Early 19th Century (Qin Dynasty), Field Museum, Chicago. Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, shown here reaching out to save others while delaying her own Nirvana/Salvation. She is shown, as usual, sitting on a Lotus Leaf. The multiple hands are atypical for Chinese Kwan Yin. If you look closely, there is a child riding on her crown as well. Out of curiosity, I looked it up and here is what I found at

In depictions she is shown with pearls of illumination in one hand; and with the other she pours out "sweet dew", the nectar of Wisdom and Compassion from a small vase, blessing all with physical and spiritual peace. Her cupped hands are a symbol of the womb and the universal feminine principal. She sometimes holds a sheaf of ripe rice, a metaphor for sustenance supplied. The dragon is often seen with her, a symbol of wisdom, strength, and the power of divine transformation. A Divine Mother, always there are children around her or being held by her. There are two small attendants that show up periodically, a "young man of excellent capacities" and the "daughter of the Dragon King," both related to the legendary Miao Shan. As reference to fishermen, sailors and water, she can be seen on a boat or a lotus flower crossing the sea. Other things related to her are a dove, a scroll of prayers which are the teachings of Buddha, a rosary of white crystal beads showing the rounds of rebirth, and a willow spray with which she sprinkles the divine nectar of life.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of China, Wikipedia has a great quick summary.

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