Dedicated to Ayesha(12/29/00)
The Chinese bodhisattva (Buddhistic prophet) to whom childless women turn for help. He manifests himself in
any conceivable form wherever a being needs his help, especially when someone is menaced by water,
demons, fire, or sword. Kuan-yin, whose name means "Who Contemplates the [Supplicating] Sound of the
World", along with Samantabhadra, Kshitigarbha (Di-cang) and Manjushri (Wen-shu), is one of the four great
bodishattvas of Buddhism. Guan-yin is identified as the male bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, also known as
Chenresi in Tibetan, "One Who Hears the Cries of the World".
In more recent representation, Guan-yin is often depicted with distinct feminine features,
an effect of Taoistic and Tantric influences from the 8th to 10th century. She is often
depicted as the Thousand Armed, Thousand Eyed bodhisattva, and later in a form inspired
by the Virgin Mary figures from the West. In many representations, Guan-yin has a child
on one arm or appears in the company of a maiden who holds a fish basked or is shown
together with Wei-tuo. In other depictions Kuan-yin is shown standing on clouds or riding
a dragon in front of a waterfall. As Guan-yin of the Southern Sea, he stands on a cliff in
the midst of flaming waves and rescues shipwrecked persons from the sea (which
symbolizes samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth). He usually holds a lotus blossom or a willow twig
and a vase containing heavenly dew or the nectar of immortality.
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