Esoteric (Vahrayana) Buddhism employs rituals and magic spells and features multiheaded and multiarmed deities. This form of Buddhism was popular in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907), when this image of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, was made under imperial patronage. The eleven heads represent the stages of enlightenment and the sensuous sculptural style reflects Indian influence. This sculpture adorned the Seven Jewels Pagoda that was built in the Tang capital (modern day Xi'an).
Guanyin of Eleven Heads
China, Shaanxi Province
Xi'an Tang dynasty, ca. 703
Limestone 108.8 x 31.7 x 15.3 cm
gift of Charles Lang Freer F1908.98