Guanyin of the Southern Sea

Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10

Guanyin is the Bodhisattva of mercy and compassion. A Bodhisattva in Buddhism is someone who helps others in their spiritual paths.

Do you feel like this Guanynin would listen closely to your stories or help you with challenges? What’s makes you feel that way?

  • Guanyin’s outstretched hand is dirty and worn because people would touch it when worshipping.
Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Detail: Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10

How was it made?

  • This sculpture is carved from one single tree trunk. Can you imagine how big the tree must have been?
  • There are two holes in the back of this sculpture. People may have put objects in the statue as gifts to Guanyin. What would you like to give Guanyin?
Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Detail: Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10

Before and After:

Take a look at the photo. Believe it or not, that’s how Guanyin used to look!

What looks the same? What looks different?

Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10

Can you find the empty hole on Guanyin’s forehead?

This was originally painted red and had a jewel or crystal in it.

The hole is called an “urna” and is a symbol of wisdom. The crystal would have made the urna sparkle, making the sculpture even more spiritual.

Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Detail: Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10

Tools of the Trade:

Take a look at some of the tools conservators used to uncover the secrets of Guanyin!
X-Ray images
Microscopes
Paint samples (size comparison with pinhead) (image of paint sample)

Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10
Conservation Guanyin of the Southern Sea
Guanyin of the Southern Sea, China Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Wood with polychrome. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-10