This is a continuation of the last issue's display of Guan Yin images. The paintings we present here are traditional Chinese "ink and wash" Guan Yin from the Ming and Ching Dynasties.

Since the Sung Dynasty, Chinese artists, mostly from the intellectual class, had created and developed an unique combination of paintings and literature, i.e. merging poetry, calligraphy and painting into a single format. This kind of "literary painting" in "ink and wash" is an artistic form of combining poetry and painting to express the spiritual quality and liberation of individuality. In such paintings, the goal is not to reproduce reality, but to express feelings. Guan Yin paintings created in this form are distinct among other Buddhist paintings.

For this small collection of such paintings we would like to elaborate on the uniqueness along the following four characteristics. Please click on the illustrations to see the images in more details, or click here for the first exhibit.

in Black and White


The paintings are only in black and white with no colour. Instead, different tones of the ink are used. They combine calligraphy and paintings, and have become a form of visual art which is only found in China. Among the display in this issue, you will find poems written on the paintings. The artists used these to express their feelings or to describe the paintings. Some even transcribed the complete "Heart Sutra" to express their respect towards Guan Yin.

in White Clothes


After the Tang Dynasty, the image of Guan Yin in China had transformed into a female form. In most temples and drawings, the Guan Yin is usually a gracful lady with luxurious clothings and ornaments. An example is the Guan Yin with poplar branch and sweet dew we presented in the last issue.

On the other hand, the Guan Yin in the "ink and wash" paintings are all in white, dressed plainly and with no ornaments. They are presented in a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere. This is the so-called 'Guan Yin in white clothes". Such creation reflects these artists' ideal of discarding the secular and luxurious life.

in Mountains and Waters (Landscape) Paintings


With mountains and waters in the background, Guan Yin sits in a forest or beside a stream or lake, meditating. The Bodisattva is just there naturally with leisure. This reflects the Chinese intellectuals' desire to retreat to nature and simple life style.

"Picking chrysanthemum beneath the fence on the east, I can see the southern mountains far away". The creation of such atmosphere is a way of maintaining psychological balance for most Chinese intellectuals.

with Worldliness and Motherliness


While some Guan Yin images still carry an aureola others have got rid of it. The atmosphere of 'god' is fading and the image of a graceful woman gradually emerges. The Bodhisattva is no longer in the lotus posture, but just sitting there leisurely. The gap between 'god' and human is diminishing and Guan Yin has become an ordinary but intimate person. Some paintings even include pictures of children playing happily near Guan Yin. In China, there is a popular belief that Guan Yin is somesone to look to when a woman wishes to have a baby.

Art is a reflection of culture. This selection of "ink and wash" Guan Yin reflects the feelings of some Chinese people during the Ming and Ching Dynasties towards Buddhism and Guan Yin Bodisattva.