Antique Wood Ming/Qing Nanhai Guanyin of the South Sea, China (19508BME)


H: 9.75″  W: 5″  D: 4.5″  | FREE SHIPPING!

This enchanting carving depicts Nanhai Guanyin in her Cave on Mount Putuo seated in lalitsana, below a symbolic arch of draped moss with bright pigmentation and considerable gilt highlighting her features. Nanhai Guanyin was massively popular during the Ming/Ching dynasties and provincial wood images were made for placement on home altars throughout China. She holds scrolls representing the dharma and sutras and behind her are a vial with the tears of her devotees and parrot, her constant companion. Small Nanhai images for home shrines containing all these symbols in such good condition are very rare.


This elegant carving dates to the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties. Nanhai Guanyin sits upon a rock at the entrance to her Cave of Tidal Sound on the island of Mount Putuo, represented by the arched overhead covering and the rough indentations symbolizing the bottom of the cave on the round pedestal upon which she sits. This Guanyin image sits in lalitsana (royal ease), her right leg drawn up with bare defined toes exposed and her relaxed arm and hand with well-articulated fingers resting on it.  Her curved left arm resting on the bent knee holds a scroll in her elegant hands which symbolizes the dharma, (Mahayana Buddhism tenets), or the Lotus Sutra which describes  Guanyin’s magnificence. The white parrot (restored) sits on a ledge to her right, representing piety. As described in the Pure Land Sutra, the Pure Land is home to parrots who help those who have achieved rebirth in the Western Paradise. To her left is a tall slender vial (also restored) which contains amitra, the precious dew of compassion, healing and immortality which she uses to bless all living beings. She is held up by five lotuses – the middle one fully open, two side ones partially open and the two farthest ones closed buds, symbolizing her enlightenment and the potential for her devotees to reach their own enlightenment. Her hair is set in a top chignon tied with a ribbon (with losses to one side). Her oval face is cast forward with its sensitive features and downcast eyes in  contemplation. As one of the Great Chinese Goddesses (Irvin), Guanyin is a syncretic deity worshipped by Buddhist, Taoists, and Popular Religion devotees.  This image made for a home altar is an excellent example of the small provincial wood images which was less costly and represents the flow of life that nurtures all beings and portrayed her as a modest figure reflecting local beliefs that resonated with common people. It was a more ornate portray with gilt and bright pigmentation, much of which remains although there are losses to the surface and the bird and parrot were re-applied later. Nonetheless, It is in very good condition for its age and use. This carving is part of the VA Spiritual-and-Inspirational Collection of Buddhist-Art.

Click here for the Blog The Emergence of Nanhai Guanyin.

Lee Irwin, “Divinity and Salvation: The Great Goddesses of China,” in Asian Folklore Studies, Indiana University, Vol. 49, 1990, pp 53-68.

Additional information

Weight 5 lbs
Dimensions 14 × 10 × 6 in
Place of Origin



Antique, Ming/Qing Dynasties


17-18th Century

Materials and Technique

Wood, polychrome, gilt, lacquer

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 9.75” W: 5” D: 4.5”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 24.76cm W: 12.7cm D: 11.43cm


1lb 12oz


6” to 11.9”


Very good, see description

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size