Susancai Statuette of Guanyin in a Rocky Grotto
Late Qing dynasty to Republic period
Porcelain with Sancai glazes
h: 25 cm, w (at widest point): 17.5 cm
Damage to Guanyin’s pedestal, tip of rocky grotto with old repair, traces of old glue under base and under guanyin (can be removed)
From a Pennsylvania, USA collection
This statuette is finely shaped and quite heavy. Its placing of Guanyin within a rocky grotto supported by a plinth echoes Ming dynasty works in the same “susancai” style. However, judging by the paste and rendering of the Guanyin’s features, this particular pieces dates to the late Qing / Republic period.
In the west, Guanyin is mostly translated as a “goddess of mercy.” In the context of East Asian Buddhism, Guanyin is indeed a Bodhisattva associated with compassion. However, the Chinese characters that make up “Guanyin” specifically means “observer of sounds” (guan = observe; yin = sounds), conveying the belief that Guanyin is a listener of suffering sounds–and thus a tenderer of the world’s troubles. For this reason, most depictions of Guanyin in Chinese art feature the Bodhisattva looking downward, as if to watch over the mortal realms. This statuette is no exception: the rocky grotto is gently curved forward, placing the eyes down-cast Guanyin in a slightly hovering position.