This fanning fellow is the patron deity of Tibet. So the story goes when Avalokiteshvara, let’s call him Kit, was confronted with the suffering of the world he was filled with such compassion that his head burst into eleven heads, and from his body sprang a thousand helping arms and hands, like some sort of badass empathetic superhero. Sense8 comes to mind. Yes, very cool. In the palm of each hand appeared an eye of infinite vision, seeking and assisting those in need. In Chinese, this deity is called Qianshou 千手 (thousand hands). I began counting but didn’t finish. I felt I should take their word for it, there was an awful lot you see.
The central pair of hands is in the ‘prayer’ gesture; the lowest pair is in the ‘charity of gift-bestowing’ gesture, with an eye in the right palm. Like the uppermost right hand holding a rosary, the other main hands once held various symbols of Buddhist virtues and ideals, which are no longer there.
Shitty, scary events across the globe and at home in Australia make me think we could use a Kit in the world today.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Melbourne you can experience this artwork first hand at the Ian Potter Centre, the best free gallery in the city hands down!
Kit’s deets are below:
TIBETO-CHINESE Avalokiteshvara 千手千眼觀音 17th – 18th century China. Gilt-bronze, semi-precious stone, pigments 115.0 x 72.5 x 45.4 cm. Felton Bequest, 1966 (1485-D5) Photo: Renée Garling