Seated Guanyin, 12th century. Wood, gesso and polychrome, 40 1/2 x 33 1/2 x 20in. (102.9 x 85.1 x 50.8cm). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 99.24.2 ©2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
The supreme sculptural representation of the bodhisattva Guanyin during late Sung was « Kuan-yin of the Southern Seas » or the « Water Moon Guanyin. » The subject is taken from the Gandavyuha chapter of the Avatamsaka sutra in which Guanyin is visited on Mount Potalaka (in the southern seas) and found sitting before a rocky grotto watching the reflection of the moon in the water and meditating on the illusionary nature of existence. With this theme, the bodhisattva is typically portrayed in the posture of « royal ease » (maharajalilasana) seated informally upon a rockwork pedestal representing Mount Potalaka’s craggy shore. Kuan-yin’s expression is serene, with eyes half-closed in meditation; a carved openwork crown with a seated image of the Buddha Amitaba at its center rests upon the bodhisattva’s head. The figure is ornately dressed with a dhoti skirt, silk scarves, a profusion of jewelry, elaborate hair, and a high headdress.