Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin Pusa), Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), dated 1282
Probably Hebei Province, China
Wood (willow) with traces of pigment, single woodblock construction; H. 39 1/4 in. (99.7 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1934 (34.15.1)
This sculpture is dated to 1282 because of an inscription found at the back on a piece of wood that was used to close the consecratory chamber, and it is interesting that this piece of wood also has an indentation that holds a small mirror. This is one of two pieces in the Museum's collection that contain mirrors, which have a long history as protective and auspicious devices in Chinese culture. The rounded physique of the sculpture and the way that it twists to suggest depth illustrate the introduction of Indo-Himalayan tradition into Chinese sculpture in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the Mongol controlled both China and Tibet. The dramatic rendering of the hair, in which the strands or braids are shown as upright individual pieces that end in little curls, also derives from these traditions; however, in India and Tibet, this hairstyle is generally used in depictions of ferocious protectors rather than in representations of bodhisattvas.