wood with traces of paint
Gift of Joseph E. Refsnes
© Phoenix Art Museum. All rights reserved. Photo by Ken Howie.
North Wing, First Floor, Asian Art Gallery
In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who denies himself the attainment of nirvana, or freedom from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, in order to help all other beings. Guanyin, a shortened version of the name Guanshiyin, means "the hearer of the sounds of the world" and refers to this Bodhisattva's all-powerful capacity to observe human life and answer the prayers of the suffering.
Through enlightenment, Bodhisattvas transcend gender differentiation, and thus they are often depicted with a blend of masculine and feminine traits that represent their perfected human character. Here, Guanyin is shown in a more feminine form, with a delicate, introspective face and slender, graceful body and hands. The flowing garments, crown and jewels emulate the princely dress of the Indian prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha.