18th Century; bronze, some burnt marks on figurine providing excellent patina; Hunan Province. Height: 24″
This Qing Dynasty Kuanyin is richly gilded all over, but has seen wear-and tear, with some burnt marks on her face, hands and feet, as well as on her clothing, likely through devotional handling in a temple in Hunan, but it is also possible the figurine was damaged during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and later rescued from the temple and taken out of China by refugees.
The Kuanyin is seated in dhyanasana (“Meditation” mundra), with hands in abhaya (“Have No fear” mundra), and varadumundra (“Giving and Granting” mundra). When the hand is raised with the thumb and forefinger in the action of pressing together, it symbolizes wisdom and compassion, while the three raised fingers represent the triratna: the Buddha, the Dhama, and the Sangha. With these mundra (hand positions), the Kuanyin is offering believers her help.
This Kuanyin exudes an air of serenity and divine majesty. Her hair is pulled up in a high bun on top of her head, with the figure of a peacock perched on her bun. (A peacock is a royal symbol, here signifying spiritual importance). The hair shows some corrosion of the metal, exposing slight streaks of reddish color of the copper alloy in the metal. She sits on top of an elaborately tiered lotus throne, upon rising finely lobed lotus petals.
The Kuanyin wears a robe which drapes around her shoulders, parted to expose her bejeweled chest, then cascades in voluptuous folds across her knees, exposing her gilt-bronze feet. Her robe is finely incised front and back with a scene of lotus flowers and leaves making their way out of bubbling water from stems sprouting at the bottom of a pond. Tiny round air bubbles are scattered all over her robe. Such an exquisite design, almost like a scene from a painted scroll, is rarely seen on a robe worn by a Buddha figure. The lotus signifies purity. She wears a string of pearls around her neck, symbolizing good luck. This figurine has an excellent patina, showing some blue tints on metal from oxidation of a tiny bit of brass alloy from aging.