AvalokitesvaraAvalokitesvara or Guanyin is the left attendant of Amitabha Buddha. He appears as one of the Three Western Sages headed by Amitabha Buddha. Guanyin is described as a Bodhisattva of Great Mercy, who helps the needy and relieves the distressed, cures the disabled and saves a sinking vessel whenever they call his title Bodhisattva Guanyin.

Avalokitesvara was introduced into China with Mahayana Buddhism and was first known as “Guanshiyin. ” In the Tang Dynasty the Chinese character “shi” was left out because it happened to be part of the name of the reigning Emperor. Thus Guanyin became the usual name.

Buddhism has it that Guanyin has 33 different images with 32 in-carnations. Many of the images are female ones. As early as the Northern and Southern dynasties, the female image of Guanyin appeared, and became quite popular in the Tang Dynasty.

Guanyin has many names: the White-robed Guanyin, Dragon-head Guanyin, Fish-basket Guanyin, Water and Moon Guanyin, Medicine-bestowing Guanyin, etc. Sometimes Guanyin stands on a lotus flower.

Bodhisattva Guanyin gained enlightenment on Mount Putuo, one of China’s four famous Buddhist mountains located on Zhoushan Islands, Zhejiang Province, East China.

Guanyin in female image is often depicted holding a tiny chinaware flask in her hand. In the Hall of Guanyin, these goddess images some-times sit amidst burning red candles. On her three birthdays, lots of aged pilgrims came in and kowtowed before them with offerings of incense. Her birthdays fall on the 19th day of the 2nd, the 6th and 9th lunar months, said to be the time for the Bodhisattva to achieve Nirvana or ascend to the Buddhist Western Happy Region.

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