Exhibition Highlight - 4

Standing Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin)

Standing Bodhisattva













Standing Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin)
Xiangtangshan: Southern Group of Caves, Attributed to Cave 2, 565-577 ce. Limestone freestanding sculpture with lacquerlike coating, 74  x 20 1/16 x 14 9/16 in. (188 x  51 x 37 cm).
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Purchased from C.T. Loo, 1916 (C113).

In the crown of this bodhisattva is a small Buddha standing on a lotus pedestal, which identifies the figure as the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (“[He who] hears the sounds of the world”). Avalokitesvara became the most popular deity in the Buddhist pantheon, a merciful deity who could take many forms to help those in need. With its finely carved details and strong sense of volume, the figure is a masterwork of Northern Qi sculpture that defines new trends in sculptural art. From the middle of the sixth century, freestanding, more-lifelike images carved in the round were increasingly common elements of cave decoration. In contrast to earlier depictions of Buddhist divinities as predominantly otherworldly beings, these convey a sense of the living presence of the Buddha and bodhisattvas in this world, and of the possibility of enlightenment for all.