Seated Guanyin with Child and two companions


Seated Guanyin with Child and two companions, China, Dehua, Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), Kangxi era (1662 - 1722), 2nd Half of the 17th Century. Porcelain. H. 38 cm,

Porcelain figure of Guanyin, wearing a long draped robe, a diadem on the head and jewellery around the neck, seated on a throne with the right leg bent and holding a baby on her lap; two small boys stand at the sides of the throne and two water dragons among waves are depicted beneath the throne.

ca. 1620-1720

 Guanyin, the Goddess of Compassion, is one of the most popular Buddhist deities in China. Her figure originated in India as the male bodhisattva Avalokitesvara; after the introduction of Buddhism in China, he was transformed into a female deity associated with the virtues of compassion and mercy. Guanyin was also worshipped in China as the patron of fishermen, and by women as the goddess 'bringer of sons'.

This porcelain figure of Guanyin was made at the kilns of Dehua in Fujian province, south-east China. Dehua was the second largest producer of ceramics, including export ware, after Jingdezhen. The goddess is here represented as the 'bringer of sons' with a baby on her lap and two children at the sides of her throne, but also as a protector of fishermen with two water dragons and waves at her feet. This kind of figures were usually placed on household altars and worshipped as devotional images. By the late 17th century they were also exported to Europe, where the body and colour of the Dehua ware, also known as 'blanc de Chine', were much admired.

Guanyin © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A pure white body with a transparent glaze is characteristic of the porcelain kilns of Dehua (Fujian Province), which is referred to in Europe as the Blanc de Chine. Originally included the collection of Augustus the Strong, more than 1200 Dehua porcelains, of which about 500 are received in the Dresden collection. The Bodhisattva Guanyin (Sanskrit Avalokitesvara) in Buddhism is the Bodhisattva who looks down merciful, the most important deity in the Mahayana Buddhism of the "Great Vehicle". He's here in female form in the form of "sons granted Guanyin" (Chinese Songzi Guanyin) is shown. Guanyin seated on a rocky base, at the foot of two writhing dragons. On her lap she holds a small boy. Right and left on a rock base to find the attributes of the Guanyin bottle of water of life, and picture book role. The deity is accompanied by the daughter of the Dragon King (Chinese longnu) and the truth-seeking boys Sudhana (Ch Shancai). The type of "sons granted Guanyin" developed in the syncretic Chinese folk religion. The characters from "Dehua" - like porcelain originally have stood on a home altar for worship and acceptance of childlessness. During the 17th Century came from Dehua white porcelain large quantities to Europe. The popularity of this particular Guanyin was probably in their outward resemblance to the Christian type of Mary with the baby Jesus. (From The Porcelain Collection in Dresden, China, Japan, Meissen, Dresden, 2006, p 41)