Seated Scripture Guanyin Bodhisattva

Seated Scripture Guanyin Bodhisattva


Ming dynasty
1368-1644
China
Polychrome wood carving
Bodhisattvas
Main statue Height 28 cm, Smaller statue estimate Height 28 cm
2017.42

The Scripture Guanyin showing this deity holding a roll of scripture is one of the 33 ‘responsive manifestations’ set out in “Universal Gateway of Guanyin Bodhisattva” chapter in the Lotus Sutra. It says, “In case the sentient being should be delivered as a Hearer (śrāvaka), Guanyin will manifest in the body of a Hearer to give guidance.” The Scripture Guanyin is typically represented by the Bodhisattva seated on a boulder-like pedestal with a roll of scripture in hand in the act of preaching to the Hearer.

This Guanyin has a big topknot, minutely depicted hair, delicate facial features, crescent eyebrows, small eyes, an elegant nose, a small mouth and a woman’s countenance. Interestingly, the body is not adorned with any jewellery. A loose robe is worn over an undergarment (saṃkakṣikā). The head is slightly turned to the right. The hands are unfolding a roll of scripture. The Bodhisattva appears to be reading from it with great concentration while seated on a pedestal. The drapery is fluidly rendered in parallel or intersecting wavy lines depicting the twists and folds of the fabric. The pedestal is furnished with four feet. The upper surface with key-fret motifs carved above a band of vertical striations represents the cushion placed upon the boulder.

A small rectangular shrine painted in red has been cut into the back of the statue to house a Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) gilt bronze standing Guanyin with a half-naked body draped in a shawl and adorned with strings of jewellery. The statuette is placed upon a waisted double-lotus pedestal. His waist is slightly twisted and the hip swayed sideways to suggest a sense of motion. Depositing śarīra, written incantations and medicinal herbs into the interior a Buddhist statue is meant to invest the statue with vitality and to enhance its sacredness. This statuette could have represented the tutelary deity of the Scripture Guanyin. This unique form of sacred deposit along with the rich religious connotations of the statue have made this art piece an even more precious rarity.