Standing Willow Guanyin Bodhisattva

Tang dynasty
618-907 CE
Gilt bronze
Height 21.5 cm

The willow branch in the raised right hand of this Guanyin image and the purifying bottle in his lowering left hand are symbols of this Bodhisattva’s divine power to eliminate the foul diseases of all sentient beings. Also, they are an important iconographic feature of the Willow Guanyin. Here, Guanyin wears a tall topknot with an Amitābha Buddha image set at the front. Strings of jewellery adorn his chest and bracelets fit around his wrists. He also has a shawl around his shoulders, a diagonally sash across his chest and a long skirt below his waist. He is standing upon a waisted lotus pedestal atop a square stand. The nodding head inclines slightly to the right, and eyes downcast. The elegant and luxurious openwork nimbus is exquisitely made up of a circular inner plate within a ring of flames, connected by radiating struts. The Bodhisattva has a moon-like round face, a slender waist, a slightly bulging chest, beautiful body curves, and muscles suggesting elasticity and suppleness. The shoulders, arms and hands are also finely modelled, vividly hinting the softness and richness of the skin. The drapery is largely in the form of ridged lines, while some catenary folds of the long skirt are represented by U-shaped incision.

Overall speaking, despite its small size, this image is superbly crafted and the bodily structure well-defined, demonstrating a typical high Tang style. The wavy movement of the shawl echoes with that of Guanyin’s body, further accentuating the elegance and femininity of high Tang Bodhisattva statues.