Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Water-Moon Guanyin

Photo: Paul Macapia

Water-Moon Guanyin

10th - late 13th century

Guanyin sits majestically with an arm relaxed on a raised knee and a leg hanging down—this posture is known as lalitasana (royal ease). His craggy rock seat represents Potalaka, an island in the Indian southern sea that is Guanyin’s mythical home. Large wood sculptures of this type were produced between the 10th and 14th centuries in northern China.

Guanyin is the Chinese name for Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Like the figure of the same deity from Gandhara nearby, he wears the robes and ornaments of an Indian prince, including a tiara, bracelets, a necklace, and a shawl around his bare chest. His hair is tied up into a chignon (a knot or coil); some falls down loosely around the shoulders. In the West, this male deity’s calm and gentle demeanor is often perceived as feminine, and indeed Guanyin also manifested in various female forms in China.

Wood with lacquer, gesso, polychrome and gilding
64 x 36 x 30 in. (162.56 x 91.44 x 76.2 cm)
Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Asian Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective, Dec. 22, 2007 - July 26, 2009.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Luminous: The Art of Asia, Oct. 13, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, Feb. 8, 2020 - ongoing.
Published ReferencesHandbook, Seattle Art Museum: Selected Works from the Permanent Collections, Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1951, p. 63 (b&w)

Thomas, Edward B., Oriental Art in the Seattle Art Museum, in Art in America, no. 1, 1965, illus. p. 59

Lorne, Aleth and Petra Rosch, and Pauline Lunsingh Scheurleer. The Chinese Wooden Sculpture of Guanyin. New Technical and Art Historival Insights, in the Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, Jaarg 50 Nr. 3 (2002), p. 364-389.

Explore the Art of Luminous: Seated Guanyin. YouTube video, 2011.

Waugh, Daniel C. "The Arts of China in Seattle." The Silk Road, vol. 12 (2014): pp. 137-152, reproduced p. 151, fig. 31.

Foong, Ping, Xiaojin Wu, and Darielle Mason. "An Asian Art Museum Transformed." Orientations vol. 51, no. 3 (May/June 2020): pp. 54-55, reproduced fig. 12 (installation view).

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM