Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin)

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: dated 1282

Culture: China

Medium: Wood (wiillow) with traces of pigment; single woodblock construction

Dimensions: a) Guanyin: 39 1/4 in. (99.7 cm)
b) Inscribed block: H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm); W. 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm); D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1934

Accession Number: 34.15.1a, b


A removable panel in the back of this image gives access to a hollow interior that would have been filled with offerings at the time of the piece’s consecration. The interior surface of the panel bears a date (1282) and a small bronze mirror that functioned as a protective talisman.

The bodhisattva has a rounded physique and stands in a slightly twisting pose, which creates a sense of depth. Both conventions attest to the introduction of Indo-Himalayan sculptural traditions in China in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the Mongols controlled both China and parts of Tibet. The elaborate coiffure also derives from these traditions.