Kuan Yin (觀音)
Chinese goddess of mercy, in Japan known as
Kwannon and in Thailand as
Phra Mae Kwan Im
legend Kuan Yin was
born a princess, daughter of a Chinese emperor who was not a
Buddhist and was furious to see his daughter’s devotion to Buddhism.
Before her marriage, the princess freed several tortured prisoners
and escaped from the palace. Many oppressed people followed
her. When her father was gaining on them, a magic bridge appeared to
save the princess and her followers. Soon her father became
seriously ill and the doctor told her that the only cure included
the arms and eyes of a virgin. With appreciation for her father, the
princess decided to sacrifice herself, thus healing her father. With
her willingness to help those in misery, people came to worship her
as the goddess of mercy.
As a lady, she is the female
form of the male
the personification of
Buddhism. As the female
form of Avalokitesvara, she also wears the portrait of
in her headdress (fig.),
and she is sometimes depicted with several arms (fig.),
Radiating Avalokitesvara (fig.),
a representation referred to as the Thousand-hands Kuan Yin (fig.), often with multiple arms and hands organized in a circle around her body and multiple heads piled on top of each other (fig.).
Her many mounts include a huge
(fig.) which is sometimes depicted with the head of a
(fig.) and that is able to subdue demons and malicious beings. Her other mounts also include a peacock, a male
kilen (fig.) and any of the 12 animals of the
Chinese zodiac, with the
Akin to this goddesses' own compassionate nature, in Buddhism,
fish (fig.) are
generally likewise seen as symbols of
eternally active compassion, which is represented by their ever-open eyes. Also spelled
Tamnak Phra Mae Kwan Im
temple in Bangkok (fig.)
is dedicated to her.
The Puning Temple in Chengde, in
Province, houses the world's largest wooden statue of Kuan Yin, which is
made from 5 kinds of wood, i.e.
pine, cypress, elm, fir, and linden, weighs 110 tons and
has a height of 22.28
meters (map - fig.), whereas
Wat Huai Pla Kang, i.e. a Buddhist
features a 79 meters tall Kuan Yin statue, reportedly the largest image of this goddess in Thailand (fig.).
See also POSTAGE STAMP and