Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in "Water Moon" Form (Shuiyue Guanyin)
Liao dynasty (907–1125)
Wood (willow) with traces of pigment; multiple-woodblock construction
H. 46 1/2 in. (118.1 cm); W. 37 1/2 in. (95.3 cm); D. 28 in. (71.1 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1928
After the tenth century, one of the more prominent representations of Avalokiteshvara shows the bodhisattva seated with the right knee raised and the left leg crossed before the body. The posture represents the Water Moon manifestation, understood as a depiction of the divinity in his Pure Land, or personal paradise. Known as Mount Potalaka, Avalokiteshvara's Pure Land was originally thought to be located on an island somewhere south of India. However, by the time of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), this mythical paradise had been relocated to Mount Putuo, an island off the coast of the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, which had by that time become an important pilgrimage site.
This sculpture of Avalokiteshvara exhibits the plump cheeks, small features, and pursed mouth characteristic of works produced during the Liao dynasty. He wears a front-tying belt composed of square plaques, a type that first appeared in China in the fourth century. These belts are thought to represent the taste of foreigners living in China at the time, such as the Qidan peoples, from the northeast, who ruled as the Liao dynasty.
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