Guan Yin

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Guan Yin
Affiliation Three Holy Trinity (Buddhism)
Mantra Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
Mount Lotus, Tiger, Dragon

Guan Yin (also Kwan Yin) is the bodhisattva of compassion and mercy. She is venerated in Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism (where she is known as Avalokitesvara), and sometimes Theravada Buddhism. 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."

Origin[change | change source]

Many Buddhist agree that Guan Yin came from the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Before the arrival of Buddhism to China, Guan Yin was shown as a male in India where she was known as Avalokitesvara. When Buddhism came into China and became popular, many Buddhists transformed Avalokitesvara into a female named Guan Yin.

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".

Iconography[change | change source]

Guan Yin with a child.

Originally, Guan Yin was shown as a male with an open dress revealing her chest and sometimes a mustache. During 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, 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 of the bodhisattva is considered the personification of compassion and kindness, a mother-goddess and 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.