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Gallery Text

Enlightened, compassionate bodhisattvas are visually distinguished from other Buddhist figures by their flowing princely attire, opulent jewels, elaborate crowns, and long hair — attributes that derive from the costumes of ancient Indian royalty and that signify bodhisattvas’ choice to remain in our world. A small image of a seated Amitabha Buddha in this magnificent figure’s crown identifies the deity as Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, one of the most venerated and oft-depicted bodhisattvas in East Asia. The veneration of Avalokiteshvara flourished in China from the fourth century onward, as the deity came to be revered for his ability to appear in response to the recitation of his name by anyone beset by troubles. Thanks to the rapid spread of the deity’s cult, large free-standing sculptures such as this came to figure prominently in many Chinese temples; in fact, Avalokiteshvara is one of the few bodhisattvas to be regularly presented as a stand-alone figure.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Standing Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin Pusa) with Circular Halo
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Guanyin Pusa [Kuan-yin P'u-sa]
Alternate Title: Avalokitesvara
Work Type
figure, sculpture
581 - 618
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Sui dynasty, 581-618
Level 1, Room 1610, Buddhist Sculpture, Buddhism and Early East Asian Buddhist Art
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Limestone with traces of gilding and polychrome pigment
H. 158 x W. 34.3 x D. 33 cm (62 3/16 x 13 1/2 x 13 in.)
Weight 530 lb.
[Yamanaka & Co., New York, January 12, 1931] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1931-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 20, p. 26

Exhibition History

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 11/23/2008

32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu