Guan Yin

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Guan Yin
Kuan-yan bodhisattva, Northern Sung dynasty, China, c. 1025, wood, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg
Northern Song Dynasty wood carving of Guanyin, c. 1025. Male bodhisattva depiction with Amitābha's crown
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese觀音
Simplified Chinese观音
Full Chinese name
Traditional Chinese觀世音
Simplified Chinese观世音
Literal meaning"[The One Who] Perceives the Sounds of the World"
Burmese name
IPA[kwàɴ jɪ̀ɴ]
Vietnamese name
VietnameseQuan Âm
Quán Thế Âm
Thai name
Korean name
Japanese name
Sinhala name
Sinhalaනාථ දෙවියෝ
Tibetan name

Guan Yin (also Kwan Yin), the Bodhisattva of compassion and mercy. She takes various forms all over the world, in different eras and various forms. She represents mercy and compassion and is popular in East and West. She is usually shown as female but sometimes shown as male. Her full name is Guanshiyin which means "Observing the sounds (or cries) of the world."

Names in Asian Countries[change | change source]

  • In Macau, Hong Kong, and southern China she is called Kwun Yum or Kun Yum.
  • In Japanese she is called Kannon(観音) , Kan'on, or Kanzeon(観世音) .
  • In Korean she is called Gwan-eum (관음) or Gwanse-eum (관세음).
  • In Thai she is called Kuan Im (กวนอิม), Phra Mae Kuan Im (พระแม่กวนอิม), or Chao Mae Kuan Im (เจ้าแม่กวนอิม).
  • In Indonesian she is called Kwan Im or Dewi Kwan Im. The word Dewi in the name is referring as Devi or Goddess. Sometimes she is called Mak Kwam which means Mother Kwan Yin.
  • In Vietnamese she is called Quan Âm, Quán Thế Âm or Quán Thế Âm Bồ Tát.
  • In Khmer, She is called "Preah Mae Kun Ci Iem".
  • In Tibet (Vajrayana Buddhism), she is called Chenrezig and Dalai Lama is often regarded as the reincarnation.

Iconography[change | change source]

Guan Yin with a child.

Originally, Guan Yin was shown as a male with an open dress revealing his chest and sometimes a mustache. However in modern times, Guan Yin is depicted as a female rather than a male. Some male depictions still exist.

The ''Lotus Sutra'' describes Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin) as a Bodhisattva who can take any form. She can be a male, female, adult, child, elderly, human, or non-human, in order to teach the Dharma. The ''Lotus Sutra'' states that Guan Yin has 33 manifestations and 7 are female.

Depiction of Guan Yin in Vietnam.

Representations of Guan Yin in the Song Dynasty were masculine in appearance. Images and statues of Guan Yin during this time later became both genders because of the Lotus Sutra. Because Guan Yin is considered to be the personification of compassion and kindness, and a mother-goddess as well as a patroness of mothers and seamen, the representation of the Bodhisattva became mostly female around the 12th century. In the modern period, Guan Yin is depicted as a beautiful, young white-robed woman, a depiction which derives from the earlier Pandaravasini form.

In China, She is depicted as a beautiful, young white-robed woman wearing a necklace of Indian/Chinese royalty. In her left hand she holds the vase that contains the elixir of immortality and in her right, she holds a willow branch. On top of her head, she wears a crown with the image of Amitabha Buddha.