Pacific Asia Museum

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Pasadena, California 91101
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Buddhist Jade


Much like the other bodhisattvas on view nearby, this jade figure of Avalokiteshvara, known as Guanyin in China, displays all the visual hallmarks of these beings who vow to aid humanity in reaching enlightenment. Elaborate hairstyles such as this one, pulled into a topknot, are ornamented by crowns and other hair ornaments. Extensive and heavy jewelry like necklaces, earrings, armlets and bracelets demonstrate both a dazzling physical presence as well as a worldliness that roots them in the mundane realm. We also expect to see physical features such as elongated earlobes, stretched out from heavy earrings, and a gaze that seems to be directed inward rather than in communication with the outside world.

When determining if a Buddhist sculpture might be of a bodhisattva, their garments, taken in consideration with the factors mentioned above, may offer guidance. Many of these figures are depicted in sumptuous textiles such as sarongs and robes. The figure here is distinctive for the diaphanous quality of its flowing robe, which transcends the solidity/hardness of the jade material. The layered folds of the robe display a tour-de-force of the jade artisan’s technical skill and thin out the material to the highly-desirable point where light passes through it, especially visible in the upper areas of the robe around the shoulders and head. 

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