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Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin)
12th century


Dali Kingdom

Arsenical copper with gilding
H: 49.4 W: 11.4 cm
China

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This figure of Guanyin, the Chinese name for the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara), a Buddhist deity of great importance, was made in the Dali kingdom, an independent realm that ruled from 937 to 1253 in an area of southwestern China with links to both Southeast Asia and Tibet. The figure's imagery recalls early Indian prototypes as reinterpreted in Southeast Asia, then brought to the Dali kingdom, where the style was again transformed. Originally a gilded metal nimbus, or body halo, stood behind the figure.