Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva

Republican period
20th century
Dehua white porcelain
Height 38 cm

This Bodhisattva Guanyin statue wears a regal crown with a ruyi-cloud design at the front, braids of hair rolled into a topknot, while more braids of hair lay upon the shoulders. The Bodhisattva has an oval face with close-set facial features, slightly slanting eyes, quite narrow nose nostrils, a small mouth hinting a smile, and a relaxed countenance. A shawl drapes round the shoulders, and a long skirt is held in place by a girdle knotted at the front of the belly. The body and limbs are lavishly decorated with strings of jewellery, armlets and bangles. The jewellery is made up of a maze of beaded strings connected to a lotus-shaped plaque over the chest. The waisted pedestal is in the form of a full-blown lotus with half of the petals facing upward and the other half facing downward. The upper and lower rims of the double-lotus pedestal are each carved with a key-fret band. The large heart-shaped petals are each decorated with a pair of symmetric relief scrolls. The Bodhisattva also has a slender physique with narrow shoulders. The hands and feet are delicate and nimble. He is seated dignifiedly and solemnly in ‘lotus posture’ (padmāsana), with the right hand placed over the left sole, while the left hand with palm up has the thumb and middle finger touching each other. The garment fabric looks quite thick and weighty. The drapery folds are rendered fluidly either in long ridged sweeps or sharp, short turns, creating rich and uniquely beautiful textural variations.

The four-character square seal mark Xu Yuyuan zhi (Made by Xu Yuyuan) carved in the back of the statue belongs to the renowned potter Xu Youyi (1887-1940) and his porcelain workshop Yuyuan. Xu Youyi, also known by his courtesy name (zi) Jinyong and sobriquet (hao) Yunlin, came from a family with generations of wood carvers. He acquired the skill of porcelain carving from Su Jinxue (1869-1919), another master potter in Dehua. He was known for combining the techniques of clay modelling, wood carving and porcelain carving into a single integrated object, creating an innovative style for Dehua porcelain images. Most of his masterpieces bear one of these seal marks: Xu Yunlin zhi, Xu Yunlin or Xu Yuyuan zhi. This Guanyin statue is thus one of Xu’s many masterpieces.