Water-Moon Guanyin, ink and colours on paper

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Five Dynasties or Northern Song Dynasty, mid-to late 10th century AD

A simple votive image with a donor

Guanyin, the Chinese name for Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, was one of the most popular of the bodhisattvas, who would grant the wishes of the devotee. In this painting he is shown in the middle of a lotus pond, seated on a rock with a large halo behind him. We know from scriptures that the halo symbolised the moonlight. This popular form of Avalokiteshvara is known in China as Shuiyue Guanyin, or Water-Moon Guanyin. He holds a willow branch and a small vase.

The style of the donors' clothing, especially the man's hat, suggests a relatively late date for this painting.

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More information


R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Stein, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)


Height: 70.500 cm
Width: 55.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.29


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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