Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara as the Water Moon Guanyin

Incised relief of the Bodhisattva Water-Moon Guanyin.
Color: gray, with dark brown patina on surface.

Historical period(s)
Northern Song dynasty, Shaosheng reign, 1095
H x W x D: 52.2 x 52.8 x 12 cm (20 9/16 x 20 13/16 x 4 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone


Buddhism, China, Guanyin, lettering, moon, Northern Song dynasty (960 - 1127)

To 1914
Dikran G. Kelekian (1868-1951), Cairo, Egypt, Paris, France, and New York to 1914 [1]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Dikran G. Kelekian, New Yorkin 1914 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 522, pg. 150, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Dikran Garabed Kelekian (C.L. Freer source) 1868-1951


Incised relief of the Bodhisattva Water-Moon Guanyin.
Color: gray, with dark brown patina on surface.


one dated 1095; a second dated 1633


By the tenth century, Chinese Buddhists created a deity called Guanyin of the Water Moon, who is especially important in the meditative Buddhist school known as Chan (Zen in Japanese). Guanyin of the Water Moon is among the few Buddhist deities that have no direct Indian prototype. The halo around Guanyin symbolizes the moon and the Buddhist belief that the phenomenal world is as illusory as moonlight on water. In this delicately incised image Guanyin holds a bottle of heavenly dew and a willow wand.

The inscription alludes to Guanyin’s compassionate nature with the hope that every devotee who looks upon this sculpture “will be spared the loss of his father at a tender age.”

Published References
  • Sigisbert Chrétien Bosch Reitz. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Sculpture. Exh. cat. New York. fig. 333.
  • Sadajiro Yamanaka. To-so seikwa [Selected Relics of T'ang and Sung Dynasties from Collections in Europe and America]. Osaka, 1928-1929. vol. 3, pl. 18b.
  • Osvald Siren. A History of Early Chinese Painting. 2 vols., London. vol. 1, pl. 51.
  • Sir Leigh Ashton. An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Sculpture. London. pl. 61.
  • John Calvin Ferguson. Survey of Chinese Art: Chapters I - X. Shanghai. pp. 33-34, pl. 77.
  • Chun-fang Yu. Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850-1850. Exh. cat. Lawrence, Kansas and Honolulu. p. 159.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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