33 Manifestations of Guan Yin
There are 33 different manifestations of Guan Yin in this article however, we will discuss the 10 most well known manifestations of Guan Yin. Here we will describe each depiction and its representations.
- Noble Guan Yin 聖觀音 - The Noble Guan Yin is one of the most popular forms in China and Southeast Asia. In this manifestation, Guan Yin is seen sitting on a lotus flower, holding a willow leaf in her left hand and a vase in her right. The vase is filled with the nectar of life and it is known to be one of the eight symbols of good fortune in Buddhism. The willow branch represents flexibility and strength, used to shower her followers with the nectar of life. This manifestation represents longevity and thus many who are suffering from illnesses pray to this manifestation of Guan Yin.
- Thousand-Hand Guan Yin 千手觀音 - The Thousand Hand Guan Yin is also a well known manifestation of Guan Yin. This manifestation is also known as the Great Compassion 大悲觀. Guan Yin is depicted with a thousand hands as she tries to help all those who are in need. It is said that while attempting to help all those in need, her arms split into thousand pieces but Amitabha Buddha turned it into a thousand arms so that she could continue helping others.
- Eleven-Headed Guan Yin 十一面觀音 - Guan Yin is the short from of Guan-shi Yin which translates to Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the (human) World. In her bid to understand and help the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha presented her with eleven heads to hear the cries of the suffering. People pray to her for comfort, healing, guidance, mercy and forgiveness.
- Hayagriva Guan Yin 馬頭觀音 - Hayagriva Guan Yin is a manifestation of Guan Yin that is revered as the guardian protector of travel and transportation. He is depicted with a horse head above his head and his appearance is wrathful. This represents compassion’s fierce dedication to assist sentient beings to triumph over internal egotism and external obstructions. He is prayed to for protection and is also prayed to by horse owners to protect their horses.
- Water-Moon Guan Yin 水月觀音 - In this manifestation. Guan Yin is portrayed standing atop a lotus petal, floating on water. Her hands clasped and looking at the moon. The Water-Moon Guan Yin allows practitioners to recognise dependent origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) by observing the reflection of the moon in the water.
- Child-giving Guan Yin 送子觀音 - The Child-giving Guan Yin is another manifestation of Guan Yin and it shows Guan Yin holding a child in her arms. This manifestation of Guan Yin is prayed to by worshipers for healthy children and increased fertility luck. In ancient times, worshippers would pray to her for intelligent male heirs as male children were crucial to Confucian family structure however, the Child-giving Guan Yin bestows children of either sex, depending on the mother’s wishes.
- White Robbed Guan Yin 白衣觀音 - As the name suggests, this manifestation of Guan Yin depicts Guan Yin in a white robe and seated in meditation. The white symbolises the pure heart of enlightenment or Bodhicitta. She is prayed to by believers regarding everyday concerns of healing, safety, and security.
- Fish Basket Guan Yin 魚籃觀音 - The Fish Basket Guan Yin Manifestation portrays Guan Yin standing atop of a koi fish or holding a fish basket. This manifestation of Guan Yin is known to save sentient beings from raksas, nagas and demons. These creatures will be contained in the basket.
- Guan Yin of the Southern Seas 南海觀音 - The Guan Yin of the Southern Seas have three aspects one facing inland and the other two facing the South China Sea which represents her blessing and protection to the whole world.
- Guan yin and the Dragon Head 南无龙头观音 - This manifestation of Guan Yin portrays Guan Yin on a Dragon head. As Dragons are known to be strong celestial beings, it shows that Guan Yin’s powers are as mighty as Dragons.