This gilt bronze statuette is a representation of the compassionate and venerated Guanyin, a popular figure in eastern Buddhism. The figure’s graceful stance and relaxed expression give the statue a sense of peace. In her hands, she holds a lotus bud while over her forehead, at the base of the high crown headdress, is a tiny figure of the Amitabha Buddha. She wears a dhoti and is adorned with a necklace and scarves. The symbols of the lotus and necklace help emphasize Guanyin’s role as a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is “an enlightened being en route to Buddhahood who aids others in the attainment of their own Buddhist Salvation” (Expedition Magazine Vol 52, #3). The lotus brings to mind the Lotus Sutra which features Guanyin as a personal savior, the ornate jewelry symbolizes her commitment to the worldly affairs of sentient beings.
This statue was found in a river near the Aipao village which was the ancient seat of the Tsien Ning Temple. Additionally, it was almost completely covered in a thick, emerald green patina. Only the hands, face, and throat managed to keep some of its smooth, shiny gilding. Traces of gold along the folded and delicately contoured garments of the dress also peak through the patina, giving a sense of the majesty of this object. Today, the object, which is on view in the museum, has been cleaned and restored to the state pictured above.
Penn Museum Object #C400
See this and other objects like it in Penn Museum’s Online Collection Database.