Antique Nanhai Guanyin of the South Sea with Her 2 Acolytes on Putuo (16240AKE)


H: 11.5 ”    W: 6 ”    D:4.5  ”    | FREE SHIPPING WITHIN CONTINENTAL U.S.!

This small but powerful carving of Nanhai Guanyin of the South Sea with her two acolytes  is one of the finest statues in the VA collection. The intricate presentation and gilt and lacquer coating of this exquisite carving suggest it was commissioned by and placed on the home altar of a wealthy devotee. Mounted on a uniquely fashioned frosted Acrylic base it is a serene yet elegant figure with a meditative aura the would enhance any environment


This delicate antique carving is Nanhai Guanyin of the South Sea, a popular manifestation of her created during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Ming saw a revival of Buddhism and Buddhist art, as Guanyin cults appeared throughout China, scores of new Guanyin temples were built and her status was fueled by popular literature such as The Complete Biography of Kuan-yin which praised her feats and miracles. Secular folk tales emphasizing her Chinese “heritage” contributed to her popularity among followers of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Popular Religions of all social classes. During the Ming, Mount Putuo (Putuoshan) in the China Sea became the national and international pilgrimage center for Guanyin worship that resulted in this new authorized iconographical manifestation of Nanhai Guanyin that contributed to her popularity.  Nanhai Guanyin was often portrayed as a triad with two young attendants, Shan Tsai (Sudhana in Sanskrit) with hands in prayer (anjali mudra) and bent knees showing he was once disabled on Guanyin’s right and the Dragon Princess Longnu (Longnü) offering her the “illuminating pearl” on her left. Shan Tsai was a disabled pilgrim who visited 53 teachers to study the Buddhist Dharma. He visited Guanyin at Putuo who tested his resolve by creating the illusion of pirates threatening her life. Shan Tsai chased them off a cliff and thereupon Guanyin saved him, restored his disability, taught him the Dharma and made him her acolyte and permanent attendant. As Guanyin saved the life of the Dragon King’s son, in gratitude he had his daughter Longnu give Guanyin a night-illuminating pearl to read sutras in darkness. The Dragon Princess asked to become Guanyin’s disciple and Guanyin accepted with the stipulation that she treat Shan Tsai as her older brother.

Nanhai Guanyin here is seated on a stylized rocky outcrop on Putuo where she resided and the site of miraculous sights. She sits in lotus position (padmasana) legs covered by robes and  hands in her lap in meditation (dhyana mudra). Her facial features with carved eyebrows and pursed slightly smiling lips are well defined, with flat pendulous ears under a decorative five-lobed double-tiered crown with ribbons down her shoulders. This highly skilled provincial artisan integrated Buddhist, Taoist, and Popular Folk Religion elements to create a new, syncretic and more engaging genre. Her flat lotus throne supported by lotus stems with closed lotuses, the tiered lotus on which Longnu stands and the open lotus leaf supporting Shan Tsai reflect Popular Religion folk art traditions. In Buddhism, the lotus symbolizes purity, transcendence over suffering and enlightenment. The rear cavity with its sealed covering (bung) indicates it was consecrated by a Buddhist monk. The masterful carving and its intricate presentation and gilt and lacquer coating suggest it was commissioned by and placed on the home altar of a wealthy devotee. This small but powerful carving mounted on a uniquely crafted frosted Acrylic base is in excellent condition for its age and use and is one of the finest statues in the VA collection.

Additional information

Dimensions 16 × 12 × 8 in
Place of Origin



Ancient, Roman Empire


18-19th Century

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

11.5” W: 6” D: 4.5”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 29.21cm W: 15.24cm D: 11.43cm


2lbs 10oz


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Item Number


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