Guanyin (Kuan-Yin) is the bodhisattva of compassion and mercy as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female.  The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is her male form. Within Tibetan Buddhism, she is Tara, the bodhisattva of compassionate action.  In the West, Kuan-Yin is known as the Goddess of Mercy. Chinese Taoists revere her as an Immortal. The name Guanyin, also spelled Kuan Yin, is short for Kuan-shih Yin, which means "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World."


Water and Moon Kuan-Yin Bodhisattva statue

At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Photo taken by Trinity and posted here.


This Water and Moon Kuan-Yin Bodhisattva statue is 95 inches high.  It was created in the 11th or 12th century, during the Liao Dynasty, in the Shanxi Province of China, and carved from a single piece of wood.  The entire sculpture is covered in gesso and painted with colors and gold.  The figure is seated on an outcropping of craggy, moss-covered rock in the traditional posture of royal ease, with the right arm resting on an upraised knee and the left leg pendant.  Kuan-Yin embodies both male and female characteristics.  The body is that of a man, but its softer contours and facial features suggest feminine qualities.  Those who sought Kaun-Yin’s intervention were encouraged to feel that this bodhisattva was easily accessible to them.  (Information from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.)

In the Western esoteric tradition, water and the Moon are associated with intuition, dreams, esoteric knowledge, and the feminine soul.  In the Tarot, these are the realm of the High Priestess, the mystical sister who opens the door for us to probe the mysteries that lie beneath our experiences.  She encourages us to look for what is hidden, to read between the lines, and to find subtleties and nuances that reveal the  truth behind illusion.  The High Priestess acts as the messenger that surfaces from the unseen depths, bringing our inner wisdom to conscious awareness.  (Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Alchemical Tarot

All of these meanings—compassion, mercy, presence to the suffering of others, accessibility; intuition, esoteric knowledge, probing the hidden and illusory, bringing inner wisdom to consciousness—and the fact that she is sitting in a natural setting, make the Water and Moon Kuan-Yin Bodhisattva an appropriate archetype for the Dharmagaian spirit.  May the Water and Moon Kuan-Yin guide us through this time.


The most important thing we can do is to hear inside ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying.
  — Thich Nhat Hanh

The Water and Moon Kuan-Yin Bodhisattva replica,
produced by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


© 2009 Suzanne Duarte