About 1900 the French Sinologist Paul Pelliot acquired a large group of paintings in Beijing that had come from a Qing imperial repository. Included in that group was a partial set of paintings that were created for the Water-Land ritual, a Buddhist mortuary ceremony conducted for the salvation of all the souls of the dead, whether on land or at sea. This painting may have come from the same set.
A cartouche in the upper right corner of the composition identifies the deity portrayed here as Mahasthamaprapta (Dashizhi, in Chinese), a bodhisattva or enlightened being whose name means "one who has attained great power." Seated on a strikingly realistic lion mount and accompanied by a female attendant bearing a pearl, the bodhisattva holds the stem of a lotus with two blossoms that appear above his shoulders, one supporting a pearl, the other a thunderbolt-like implement (vajra). His right hand forms the mudra for charity. Most likely, this painting would have been displayed as part of a triptych together with an image of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) and a central image of the Amitabha (Miluo) Buddha.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription (1 column in standard script)
Hail to Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva (Dashizhi) 南無大勢至菩薩