Guanyin 观音 - Suzhou

Guanyin (观音, common English spelling Kuanyin) is the goddess of mercy. Often given a female persona, Guanyin is one of the Great Bodhissatva. This statue is a four sided multi-armed interpretation. Guanyin holds different implements in each of her hands that invoke inspiration and prayer. Her many hands allow her to reach out to more people to help them on their path to enlightenment. She is usually depicted with her eyes lowered, watching out for those below. The four-sided depiction symbolizes the idea that she looks in all directions and cares for all living things.

Temples such as the Yunyan Temple were commonly built by the wealthy as part of their own devotion. They could be independent or included in the plan of a garden or residence. This patronage both supported the artists and the monks who would study and teach.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 to 1644; 1644 to 1911) Suzhou grew and prospered. It was a major center for the arts and became a tourist destination. The Qing Emperor, Qianlong (乾隆, 1711–1799) made several visits to the Jiangnan region via the Grand Canal. On at least one trip he stayed at the Yunyan Temple. He was so attracted to Suzhou that when he built the Summer Palace outside Beijing, he included a "little Suzhou" in the complex. There, stores and tearooms lined the narrow canal. The nobles of the court could explore and shop without leaving Beijing.

China Index >> History of Shanghai and Suzhou Region >> Suzhou

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Last update: February 2007
© Marilyn Shea 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007