The Imagery of Kwan Yin
uan Yin is depicted in various forms and poses. She always appears cloaked in white, the color of
purity, and her gowns are long and flowing. Often she will be holding a rosary in one hand, a symbol
of her devotion to Buddhism and its tenets. She will also have either a book (The Lotus Sutra, which
refers back to her origins), or a vase, which symbolizes her pouring compassion on to the world.
Other times, she might be
holding a willow branch, which
is a symbol of being able to
bend (or adapt) but not break.
The willow is also used in rituals
and has had medicinal purposes
as well. Often, she will be seen
holding a child, a reminder of
her role as the patron saint of
Another common appearance of
Kuan Yin is one having a
thousand arms, with eyes in the
palms or holding different
objects, such as those
mentioned above. Her arms
allow her to help stop the
suffering of those all around the
world, while the thousand eyes
help her see anyone who may
be in need. Or, you might see
Kuan Yin standing with a
peacock, since the spread tail
feathers of a peacock look like
they have eyes in them.
She might be seated or standing on a lotus blossom,
which is one of the main symbols of Buddhist purity, since
it a beautiful flower that grows out of mud. The meaning is
that our hearts should be pure like the lotus flower, even
though our lives might be surrounded by dirty (or impure)
people and situations.
There are numerous other
forms of Kwan Yin throughout
Asia; in Japan alone there are 33 different manifestations.
You will find shrines dedicated
to her not only in China, but in
Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia,
Korea, Japan, Laos, Malaysia,
Singapore, Thailand and Viet
Nam. You will find images of
her not only at Buddhist
temples, but also in Taoist
and Confucian temples.