Collection Online

Guanyin with boy attendant
(19th century)

pigment on wood
25.5 × 10.3 × 10.3 cm
Place/s of Execution
Accession Number
Asian Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria, in memory of George Ewing by Mrs M. E. Cutten, Founder Benefactor, 1979
Gallery location
Not on display
This wooden sculpture was originally painted with pigments most of which have disappeared and only traces of the colour remains. It represents Guanyin seated on a double lotus throne with small boy standing to her left. To her right a bird is looking towards her. Guanyin is a Buddhist deity. Buddhism was introduced to China in the 1st century BCE. from India where the historical Buddha Sakyamuni was born in the 6th century BCE. Guanyin 觀音, meaning hearing the sounds [of suffering] in the world, was originally the Bodhisattva Avalokitestra, Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva is a being that has attained spiritual enlightenment but postpones Nirvana, the cessation of reincarnation (to be reborn into the sentient world) until he or she has saved all the sentient beings which includes all living beings including human beings, animals and even insects. Bodhisattava was originally not distinguished by gender but she became female since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and called by the Chinese name Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. She became a saviour deity that protects women in child birth. She is seated on a lotus, a symbol of purity and a flower portrayed in Buddhism. The lotus rises from the mud but retains its purity. Stylistically, this statue shows the influence of the Virgin Mary of Christianity in the West.