A carved ivory figure of Guanyin and child

16th-17th century

The seated Guanyin is wearing long robes and a scarf billowing around her shoulders and head, holding a rosary in her right hand and a lotus leaf supporting a boy seated on a qilin in her left hand. The boy is grasping the beast’s horn with one hand and holding a book in the other. The ivory is patinated to a warm tone with brown-stained details.

8 cm high



Formerly in the König Collection, Cologne

Sold at Christie’s Amsterdam, 15 March 1984, lot no. 889

A Dutch private collection


There are many manifestations of Guanyin, including the popular Songzi (child-giving) Guanyin. Generally, the goddess is depicted standing or seated carrying or holding a child on her lap.

It is very rare to find an example of Guanyin and child where the boy is seated on a qilin. Other examples in ivory of this combination appear to be unknown. The symbolic meaning of a wish for offspring is reinforced by the presence of the qilin. This one-horned creature is also a symbol of good omen, for it appears only during the reign of a benevolent king. Spitting out a book of jade, the qilin appeared to the mother of Confucius when the sage was about to be born.

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