Guanyin as the Nine-Lotus Bodhisattva

Unidentified artist

Not on view

In the summer of 1586, nine lotus flowers in the Ming imperial palace issued double blooms, a rare occurrence that was seen as an auspicious omen. That the flowers bloomed in the residence of the Empress Dowager Cisheng, mother of the emperor, was particularly favorable, for Cisheng was a devout Buddhist who had dreamed of her own incarnation as Guanyin. This painting is one of several Cisheng commissioned to celebrate the occasion. The composition, which places the boy pilgrim Shancai (Sudhana, in Sanskrit) before a maternal bodhisattva in a palace setting, strongly suggests that we are meant to see Cisheng as Guanyin. The square red seals in the upper left belong to Cisheng and her son, Emperor Wanli.

Guanyin as the Nine-Lotus Bodhisattva, Unidentified artist  , late 16th century, Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, China

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