Songzi

During the Ming Dynasty, the cult of Songzi Guanyin became one of the most popular religious movements in all Chinese regions and classes with images of her appearing in temples, clan and community shrines and on a home altar. Songzi holds a child in her lap symbolizing many aspects of granting and raising children: as the “dispenser of fecundity” she bestows children with perfections of mind and body.” As the “protector of women” she watches over them during pregnancy and childbirth and prevents premature death of mother or child; and as “guardian of children” she shields them from illness. Yu states the baby in her arms is not her own, but a “symbolic portrayal of all children that come under her protection” while Hart claims the infant playing in her lap symbolizes “a newborn, spiritual life, and Mother Nature whose mysterious powers continually produce, sustain, destroy, and renew life throughout the universe.” The Lotus Sutra states that a woman who wishes a male child just needs pray to Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) and her wish will be granted with a son of “happiness, excellence and wisdom.” (Weidner) She always holds a male child, reflecting the Confucian belief that woman’s’ most important role is to produce male heirs. Prior to the Ming dynasty, Guanyin rarely held a child but after Christian missionaries arrived in China during the 15 to 17th centuries and commissioned Fujianese artisans to carve images of the Virgin and Child, images of Songzi holding a baby boy became very similar to the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. (Kim). According to buddahanet, Guanyin became a female deity based on Confucianist influence which “discouraged the female population from seeking comfort and solace from male deities especially in their requests for off-spring.”
Sources
John Blofeld, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin, Denver, Shambala Publications, 1978.
Buddha Dharma Education Association, Popular Deities in Chinese Buddhism, buddhanet
Lee Irwin, “Divinity and Salvation: The Great Goddesses of China,” in Asian Folklore Studies, Indiana University, Vol. 49, 1990, pp 53-68.
Eloise Hart, “Kuan Yin: Goddess of Mercy, Friend of Mankind,” Sunrise Magazine, December, 1984/January, 1985.
Jeong-Eun Kim, “White-robed Guanyin: The Sinicization of Buddhism in China Seen in the Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara in Gender, Iconography, and Role”
Chun-Fang Yu, Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara, New York, Columbia University Press, 2001.
The Lotus Sutra, Translated by Burton Watson, SGI-USA.org
Marsha Weidner, “Beyond the Monastery Walls: Professional Painters and Popular Themes, in Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism 850-1850, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1994

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    Antique Carving of Guanyin with a Child, China (5301HEM ) $2,250

    Original price was: $2,250.00.Current price is: $1,950.00.
    Ht: 26”  W: 10.25” D: 7.5″ | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This rare, sensitive and beautifully carved image probably depicts Guanyin the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Mercy holding a young child’s hand glancing down with compassion and tenderness while he looks up at her for assurance and protection. This unique provincial Popular Religion carving depicts her as humble, engaging and modestly clad with a serene softness. It is similar to but different from Songzi Guanyin, the “Child-Giving Guanyin” to whom couples pray to become fertile and to bear a son.

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    Antique Ming Songzi Guanyin, Bestower of Children, China (16057BAK) $1350 SPECIAL PRICE

    Original price was: $1,350.00.Current price is: $1,295.00.
    H: 11”  W: 5.75”  D: 5.125” | FREE SHIPPING

    This very rare and fine 16th century home shrine image displays the benign and compassionate countenance of Songzi Guanyin the “Bestower of Children.”  With round face and joyful half-closed and eyes, she looks lovingly at the child whose arm is draped over hers.and leans slightly forward,  wearing a 5- lobed crown centered with a camellia flower a Chinese symbol of young sons and daughters. The inscription on the back dates the piece to 1521-1567

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    Antique Songzi Guanyin, Bestower of Children, China (16311XOKE) $2650 SPECIAL PRICE

    Original price was: $2,650.00.Current price is: $2,150.00.
    H: 14.5”  W: 8.25”  D: 5” | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This beautiful Guanyin is carved in the rural provincial tradition: a modest, compassionate and humble deity with a simple “crown” of lotus leaves holding and unadorned robe with flowing sleeves extended to her plain pedestal lined with simple leaves. Her face is extremely empathetic with a slight smile as she tenderly grasping her child who resembles the infant Buddha. Given its size and elegance it was probably on a home altar of a well to do couple desirous of having a (male) baby.

     

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