Kwanyin- Chenrezig (Avalokiteśvara)

Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in times of difficulty and to postpone his own buddhahood until he has assisted every sentient being in achieving nirvana. They are known as “lord who gazes down (at the world)”. Though they may have started out male in India, they are typically perceived as being female throughout China and Tibet. The Lotus Sutra is the earliest known teaching of the docrines of Avalokiteśvara.

Kwanyin- 觀自在, also commonly spelled Guanyin in pigeon Chinese or Chenrézik on Chenrezig – སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། in Tibetan. She is known as the Goddess of Mercy and her name means “Perceiving the sounds (or Cries) of the World”. Considered to be a bodhisattva of the highest order, she is a form of Avalokiteśvara to many Chinese Buddhists as well as Tibetans.

According to Tibetan buddhist beliefs, Tara came into being from a tear drop of Avalokiteśvara’s. She is known as the “mother of liberation”, and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements.

Because these are all variations of Avalokitesara, they have all been included here.

Kwanyin being burned
The Chinese put on a good show of burning “illegal” ivory in 2014, but if you notice, these carvings are almost all of religious icons, and mainly of Kwanyin. I’m sure she’s not a communist party favorite, nor an idol of the newly wealthy Chinese either.

As far a religious idols or shrines go, she’s probably even more popular that Buddha himself in China, or at least right up there in numbers.

Search for “Guanyin” on Ebay

  • 13,898 on 08/12/2015 including 519 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,052 on 11/23/2015 including 625 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,589 on 12/13/2015 including 655 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,512 on 1/1/2016 including 555 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,314 on 1/24/2016 including 496 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,802 on 2/28/2016 including 575 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,426 on 03/23/2016 including 650 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,678 on 04/14/2016 including 688 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,839 on 04/24/2016 including 743 auctioned in 10 days
  • 20,250 on 05/19/2016 including 1,173 auctioned in 10 days
  • 21,010 on 06/20/2016 including 1,205 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,523 on 08/18/2016 including 1,195 auctioned in 10 days
  • 27,427 on 09/17/2016 including 1,164 auctioned in 10 days
  • 28,401 on 10/21/2016 including 1,313 auctioned in 10 days
  • 28,420 on 11/15/2016 including 1,306 auctioned in 10 days
  • 29,938 on 01/12/2017 including 1,315 auctioned in 10 days
  • 27,362 on 01/31/2017 including 645 auctioned in 10 days (week of Chinese New Year)
  • 29,579 on 02/14/2017 including 1,149 auctioned in 10 days
  • 32,073 on 04/15/2017 including 1,359 auctioned in 10 days
  • 30,375 on 07/03/2017 including 1,140 auctioned in 10 days
searchforGuanyinaa
Sales tracked on Ebay for “Guanyin” from 2015 to 2017.

Search for “Kwan Yin” on Ebay

  • 21,062 on 08/12/2015 including 896 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,190 on 11/23/2015 including 965 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,764 on 12/13/2015 including 894 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,955 on 1/1/2016 including 771 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,683 on 1/24/2016 including 737 auctioned in 10 days
  • 25,521 on 2/28/2016 including 818 auctioned in 10 days
  • 26,227 on 03/23/2016 including 833 auctioned in 10 days
  • 24,004 on 04/14/2016 including 792 auctioned in 10 days
  • 23,955 on 04/24/2016 including 805 auctioned in 10 days
  • 28,507 on 05/19/2016 including 1,462 auctioned in 10 days
  • 29,131 on 06/20/2016 including 1,404 auctioned in 10 days
  • 32,200 on 08/18/2016 including 1,346 auctioned in 10 days
  • 33,321 on 09/17/2016 including 1,371 auctioned in 10 days
  • 33,270 on 10/21/2016 including 1,416 auctioned in 10 days
  • 33,674 on 11/15/2016 including 1,510 auctioned in 10 days
  • 35,692 on 01/12/2017 including 1,529 auctioned in 10 days
  • 32,834 on 01/31/2017 including 815 auctioned in 10 days
  • 34,925 on 02/14/2017 including 1,368 auctioned in 10 days
  • 37,553 on 04/15/2017 including 1,540 auctioned in 10 days
  • 31,796 on 07/03/2017 including 1,140 auctioned in 10 days
searchforKwanYinaa
Sales tracked on Ebay for “Kwan Yin” from 2015 to 2017.

Search for “Chenrezig“- her Tibetan name- this is not to say there are less Tibetan shrines than there are Chinese shrines, but only that the name of choice that most sellers use is not the Tibetan name.

  • 715 on 08/12/2015 including 10 auctioned in 10 days
  • 935 on 11/23/2015 including 12 auctioned in 10 days
  • 969 on 12/13/2015 including 10 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,025 on 01/01/2016 including 11 auctioned in 10 days
  • 950 on 01/24/2016 including 10 auctioned in 10 days
  • 971 on 02/28/2016 including 13 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,039 on 04/01/2016 including 20 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,071 on 04/14/2016 including 17 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,106 on 04/24/2016 including 19 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,191 on 05/19/2016 including 43 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,287 on 06/20/2016 including 51 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,504 on 08/18/2016 including 41 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,626 on 09/17//2016 including 43 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,671 on 10/21/2016 including 51 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,778 on 11/15/2016 including 63 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,961 on 01/12/2017 including 54 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,784 on 01/31/2017 including 9 auctioned in 10 days (week of Chinese New Year and reflects the fact most sellers of these goods are Chinese and on vacation)
  • 1,887 on 02/14/2017 including 46 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,926 on 04/15/2017 including 46 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,800 on 07/03/2016 including 44 auctioned in 10 days
searchforChenrezigaa
Sales tracked on Ebay for “Chenrenzig” from 2015 to 2017. The noticeable dip in the end is Chinese New Year- the biggest celebration all year for many Chinese where they all go home to their families. and another piece of evidence that it isn’t Tibetans selling their own shrines- but the Chinese.

Although statues of Kwanyin in bone or ivory are fairly rare because most were apparently burned, there are statues made of every other kind of material known to mankind found in such prolific numbers, it really can only mean one thing. Most people don’t give up their religious shrines easily and it isn’t an item that people are likely to sell for quick cash. No, these were taken from someone, purposefully, and against the will of their rightful owners.

Alabaster?:

Though this material is often sold as “alabaster” by sellers, the real alabaster- a form of calcite or gypsum- is quite white in color and can even be used for windows because of its translucent qualities. It is unknown if this truly is stone that they have often colored purposefully or if the color is from age, or if these are yet another form of resin that the Chinese have long been adept at producing.

Ancient Alabaster Kwanyin Head

kwanyinheadca
Photograph that has been double watermarked. I suppose this is slightly better than just using someone elses photograph with their watermark alone, but does go to show how much borrowing of photographs goes on between the dealers. Whole new levels here.

The story of how thousand armed Tara/Guanyin/Avalokitesvara/Chenrenzig was born:

Avalokiteśvara vowed never to rest  until she had freed all sentient beings, but though they try as hard as they can, they realize that many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. After struggling to help so many, her two arms shatter. Amitābha sees their plight and gives them 11 heads to hear and see with- and 1,000 arms to help the suffering masses.

thousandarmtaraha

This screen- either 18th or 19th century of Kwanin with a child holding an ingot topped by a fireball and riding a kirin (also spelled as qilin) came in this alabaster finish, as well as a cinnabar. The cinnabar screen, though perhaps even toxic because of the mercury it contains (if it is cinnabar and not a resin), was probably the more expensive to purchase originally.

Wood:

guanyinwoodea
Agarwood statue of Kwanyin

Many of the old statues and small carvings are made from a very hard wood called agarwood or eaglewood. An infection of a species of evergreen tree by a fungus is what gives it a dark color, and makes it more rare.  Aquilaria malaccensis is one of the 8 species of Aquilaria known to produce Agarwood and most widely used, is increasingly rare in the wild and listed as potentially threatened (Appendix II) by CITES today.

guanyinboxwoodaa

Another wood commonly used for small carvings is boxwood- a very hard wood that is found growing throughout most of the world, but most commonly used for garden hedges. There are 17 species of Buxus in China, and 15 of them are endemic- meaning they grow nowhere else in the world except there.

Early wooden head. Not sure if it originally came from a full statue and the head is all that remains?

  • Sold 8/1/2015 (auction) for $28.09

Early wooden heads of Guanyin. Not sure if they originally came from a full statue and the head is all that remains, but it is certainly easier to ship.

Bottom of Guanyin head

It is difficult to know sometimes who is who- I had thought the head below is of a very early Kwanyin with masculine features, but I could be incorrect, since the head above is definitely her and of a very similar age and style as the different character below.

woodenkwanyinga

Perhaps all of these delicate wooden shrines, hundreds of years old at least, are from the Mogao Caves (also called the Dunhuang Caves) which was very dry and would have preserved artifacts like this. The vast majority of these caves were supposedly looted, but perhaps many of the artifacts never made it very far, at least until now. It is certain that they were probably preserved all together, or in very similar conditions, somewhere very dry and relatively undisturbed- Tibet is also very dry as well as NW China.

woodenkwanyinha

woodenkwanyinda

Resin:

Imitation turquoise (resin) carved in the classic shape of a elephant tusk.
Imitation turquoise (resin) carved in the classic shape of a elephant tusk.
  • Sold 8/1/2015 (auction) for $35.00
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller: sold 8/10/2015 for $15.38
  • Another auction using same photo, different seller: sold 11/25/2015 for $51.01 by rose_325
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 12/16/2015 for $36.00 by rose_325
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 12/16/2015 for $39.00 by rose_325 – no longer a registered Ebay user in 2016
  • But It Now page, same photo, different seller ($55.70): ended (unclear if sold or not) 12/5/2015 by 10000years_sweet_harmony
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 04/05/2016 for $36.99 by zzqtk
  • Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller as previous ($36.99): no longer a registered user 2016 by zzqtk
resinkwanyinaa
Another version of Kwanyin in the form of an elephant tusk, featured holding a lotus pod which is curling behind her ear and a shell on that ear, as if listening to the giant clam speak.

Turquoise Resin GuanyinSold August 1, 2015 (auction) for $25.00

Amber:

Much of what is called “amber” may be synthetic or real amber mixed with additives such as colorants and perfumes (especially used in beads also called mila).

kwanyinheadba

Bone:

The seller states this huge statue of Kwanyin is made of “cattle bone” as well as the one below, however it could be a lot of things including ivory pieced together or oxen or yak. Considering the size of her and age (from at least the 19th century) it certainly is a steal at $875. The money might just barely cover the shipping costs, and assumably they are just trying to get rid of it.

kwanyinsittingba

The seller states this is a “Huge~Nice Old Japanese Hand Carved cattle bone RuYi Kwan-yin On fish statue”, but again, the material could be a lot of things, and it is strange if it is Japanese- that it is being sold out of China as well as the very Chinese subject matter of Guanyin who is holding another very Chinese symbol- a ruyi- or ruling scepter. Another “cattle bone” sculpture below whose shape and contour fit a tusk perfectly.

kwanyinstandingaa

Horn:

kwanyinbeadaa
Bead made from yak horn depicting Kwanyin on all sides
Guanyin in yak or ox horn
Kwanyin carved from a whole yak horn

kwanyinyakba

guanyinheadba

As often happens, the two Chinese shops above are ran by the exact same person (or family)- hence the reason they are using the exact same photos to sell it, have the matching pair of these hand carved shrines, and have placed them at exactly the same price. I’ve found that many, many Chinese dealers have multiple shops selling the exact same things, though it creates an illusion of a free market, in fact they are price setting and monopolizing the market if only one (or two) shop or family runs all the duplicates.

Take from 10,000,0000 then give to 10?

Part of the goal of socialism, of communism, is to redistribute wealth from the rich to everyone equally, but time and time again what I see occurring is a great number of people and families had their things taken, then these things ended up in the hands of very few to sell. Then the serious group of collectors who has the money to buy these things and knows what they are and worth is very small, and it tends to be people who are going to resell these items to also make a profit- thereby putting the wealth into the hands of even fewer. Instead of redistributing the wealth, China has actually pooled it among even fewer individuals.

guanyinheadaa

Buy It Now page on Ebay ($833.80): sold November 29, 2015 by zhongxiangltd880

guanyinstandingaa

Stone:

guanyinsittingna

One of the most common pendant designs of Kwanyin is this one, smaller with her sitting on a lotus, holding a vase, and a round halo around her head- and one that might have been easily affordable to the vast majority of the population. This is a particularly loved example, and may have came directly from a grave with the amount of dirt on it and fine sand.

Both the examples above and below are probably not real jade, but fake and an good example of where much of the bulk of the goods- used and being lied about- is coming from. It is not the rich and the well-to-do in most cases, but the poor, who didn’t have much to begin with.

guanyinandbuddhaaa

Kwanyin seen here with another pendant of the same time period- Laughing Buddha or Budai.

guanyinza

This obviously used, and vintage if not antique pendant of Guanyin was being sold time and again as brand new.

 

kwanyinobsideanba

guanyinflowerab
Yet another used religious pendant being sold as brand new. See chipping on edges as well as wear to face and dirt.
  • Buy It Now page ($9.85): sold 2015 by attjade

Lapis Guanyin Pendant

  • Sold 7/31/2015 for $15.40

Kwanyin’s two most common poses are holding a flower or holding a vase. Here in this early depiction carved from lapis lazuli above, she’s/he’s seen with flowers and a vase and a branch of ruyi.

By looking closely at the pendant above and the fine bits of gravel in the cracks, you can be sure of where the Chinese part of the stockpile of fine jade they’ve put up for sale.

Desecration of people- countless generations of them- and religious icons really don’t get any better or bigger that this. Right up there with drying your underwear on religious shrines.

kwanyinlapisea

  • See this auction  Sold 12/23/2015 for $113.61 by happyhong168
  • See this auction: sold 12/21/2015 for $160.50 by good_deal2258

Ancient Guanyin carved from rock

  • Sold 8/7/2015 (auction) for $39.38 by good_deal2258
  • Another auction, same photos, same seller: sold 8/24/2015 for $26.00 by good_deal2258

Pottery and Porcelain:

Dehua porcelain is a type of fine white Chinese porcelain known from Dehua in the Fujian Province (so these probably came from well-to-do Chinese families, not Tibetans, though there could have been some trade), it has been produced since the 12th century up to modern times. Of the finest and whitest clay particles in the world it is made out of, with the glaze typically being translucent so that these qualities in the clay aren’t covered up.

Guanyin porcelain

Long have I suspected that in addiction to price setting, monopolies, and outright stealing of goods for sale from oppressed minorities, that the Chinese may also have some “price setters”. These people are either the sellers themselves or people hired by the Communists to keep prices artificially higher by bidding against other bidders. I also suspect they may also bid against legitimate bidders when the price is set too low and they just don’t want to sell the item for next to the minimum price.

In addiction to these other ways of cheating the Ebay system, I also suspect that sometimes if you win an item at a very low price, they just don’t send it. Then it is up to you to say something and try to get your money back. And they say it was “lost” in the mail, but maybe they just didn’t send it to begin with, then try selling it later to see if they can get more for it. The other scam that they also may do is to not send expensive items purposefully, especially if sold at a very low price, just say it was lost and reimburse the bidder, then they are able to take it out of their inventory which is checked by the Communist Party (since they supply it)  and sell the items under the table in the Chinese black market for way more than the couple bucks it cost them to reimburse the international Ebay buyer for the item. Just saying. There is a sense of utter lawlessness and absence of morality in the business dealing of the Chinese, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past them to be up to all kinds of unfair things.

Metal:

guanyinheadaa

  • Buy It Now page ($15.00): sold 2016 by antiqueshop880
  • Another Buy It Now page, same photos, different seller ($15.50): sold 2016 by hongxiang8998

guanyinheadba

Wu Zetian? Is that you?

Where does Guanyin come from- this female embodiment of Avalokitesvara? Wu Zetian, one of China’s most influential empresses lived from 624-705, and during her reign created monuments and temples to Buddhism throughout China, including the Buddha statue below modeled after herself at the Longmen Grottos in Henan Province. After her reign, Avalokiteśvara –  becomes more and more female in depictions, and particularly after the Song Dynasty which came afterward- in which her original story and character may have been forgotten about by that time and embellished upon. Nothing like absence to make the heart grow fonder- this apparently is what happened in Buddha’s case, as well as Jesus’ and to Wu Zetian as well?

800px-Longmen.Vairocana

guanyinca

kwanyinda

The figure above, very old, may have been made from metal from meteorites- long believed to be powerful and sacred in its own right. It probably was kept in a special gau (shrine) box.

Kwanyin leaf

  • Sold 8/23/2015 (auction) for $12.59

In this version Kwanyin has obviously been plucked straight from the grave with the amount of dirt still attached.

Tibetan Chenrezg

guanyinsittingpa

taraongooseba

One of my favorite depictions of Chenrezig (or Tara?) riding a goose seen above. I’m still confused between my Tara’s and my Chenrezig’s and feel this probably is ?? I wish I had a Tibetan to consult with really. She rides a goose- which of course makes her awesome no matter what- and is the female embodiment of Avalokiteshvara either way. Find out more about the spiritual significance of a swan or goose here.

kwanyinsittingaa

Guanyin on Mountain

guanyinstandingla

Cloisonné – the enamel work done on the statue above to give it color is a very Chinese art form,  while mosaics made entirely of cut stones like below are typically Tibetan. In ancient times the Chinese also did turquoise mosaics, but became much more refined as time went on and diversified into more technical and elaborate techniques, while the Tibetan style has stayed true to its roots, and still incorporates cabochon stones which are one of the earliest forms of preparing gemstones- as opposed to cutting facets which came much later.


Seals are used to officiate documents as well as sign paintings and art. Because these are religious seals they may have been owned previously by monks and monasteries and/or placed in the stupas of prestigious monks to officiate in the afterlife.

kwanyinheadbbSold 8/24/2015 for $15.98

kwanyinheadbc

kwanyinheaddb
Kwanyin Seal

This is a common Kwanyin seal that comes in various colors of metal and age. They were not produced all at one time or even by one person, but cast again and again, copying an old design or slightly embellishing upon it. Above you can see left over bits of metal in the seal design, typically left over from lost wax casting (called spruing or sprue).

kwanyinheadea

Silk and Paper:

kwanyinab

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