18th Century, gilded bronze, Hunan. 29″h, 12″w
The bronze on this Guanyin has oxidized with age, with gilding at places remain intact. She is seated in padmasana (lotus position), on a lavish tiered lotus throne, with hands in vitarkamudra (the gesture of giving instruction to believers), with a bottle holding the water of life resting in her left hand. 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 Dharma, and The Sangha. With these mudra (hand position), the Guanyin is offering believers her help.
This Guanyin exudes an air of serenity and divine majesty. Her gilt bronze face has a “bindi” on her forehead(spiritually means to reach supreme goal of self-realization). She is wearing a lavish dark hooded robe with incised floral designs, which covers the high bun on her head and cascades down in crisp folds around her body, falling open to reveal the upper part of her bejeweled gilded bronze chest. Her hair is drawn up high into a bun, which has turned blue due to oxidation of the copper alloy in the bronze from aging. A bronze areola of flame, a mandala (which literally means “a ring of fire”) is attached to the figure’s back but can be detached. Fire in Tantrism means knowledge. Without knowledge there is no possibility of arriving at self-realization. The mandala here is oxidized and shows slight scorch marks. It is possible this statue was rescued from a temple burned down during the Cultural Revolution. It came out of China with a refugee family.
According to an article by the curator of the Phoenix Art Museum, antique Buddha figures are hard to find today as most are already in private collection or in museums.