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
Burmeseကွမ်ယင်မယ်တော်
IPA[kwàɴ jɪ̀ɴ]
Vietnamese name
VietnameseQuan Âm
Quán Thế Âm
Hán-Nôm觀音
觀世音
Thai name
Thaiกวนอิม
Korean name
Hangul관음
관세음
Hanja觀音
觀世音
Japanese name
Kanji観音
觀音
観世音
観音菩薩
観自在
Sinhala name
Sinhalaනාථ දෙවියෝ
Tibetan name
Tibetanསྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས

Guan Yin (also spelled Kwan Yin) is the Chinese name of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion and mercy.

His full name is Guanshiyin which means "Observing the sounds (or cries) of the world." He represents mercy and compassion and is popular in the East and the West.

He takes various forms all over the world, in different eras and various forms. He can appear in the world as either male or female.

Names in Asian langauges[change | change source]

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

Iconography[change | change source]

Depiction of Guan Yin in Vietnam.

Originally, Guan Yin was shown as a male with an open dress revealing his chest and sometimes with a mustache. In modern times, the female form of Guan Yin has become very popular. Guan Yin is said to be androgynous.[1]

The Lotus Sutra describes Avalokiteshvara (Guan Yin) as a Bodhisattva who can take any form. He can transform into a male, female, adult, child, elder, human, or non-human, in order to teach the Dharma. The ''Lotus Sutra'' states that Guan Yin has 33 different manifestations. Seven of these are female.

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 often depicted as a beautiful, young white-robed woman, a depiction which derives from the earlier Pandaravasini form.

In China, he is often depicted as young and beautiful, wearing white robes and a necklace of Indian/Chinese royalty. In the left hand he holds a vase that contains the elixir of immortality and in the right hand, he holds a willow branch. He wears a crown with an image of Amitabha Buddha.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Sheng Yen. "圣严法师《观世音菩萨的性别》". 佛弟子文库. Retrieved 2019-08-30.