Fragment Of Guanyin Of Eleven Heads Summary

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The “Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads was carved out of limestone and put on the Seven Jewels Pagoda in 703 during the Tang dynasty ("Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads"). There are many interesting subjects of study surrounding this piece of artwork. This paper will explore these different topics. The first section will cover the locational and historical contexts when this stele was carved. The next section will explore what is a Guanyin. Next, this paper will explore the iconography of the piece and how it relates to the idea of a Guanyin. Finally, this paper will discuss the Guanyin’s transition from male to female and how the “Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads” fits into that transition. To further our understanding of the “Fragment…show more content…
She started out as a concubine Emperor Gaozong (Dash). Wu then ousted the wife of Emperor Gaozong and another concubine known as “the Pure Concubine” (Dash). By then, she was “establishing herself as fully her husband’s equal” (Dash). Gaozong died in 683, and “she remained [in] power behind the throne as dowager empress, manipulating a succession of her sons before, in 690, ordering the last of them to abdicate and taking power herself” (Dash). Empress Wu ruled until 705 “when she was finally overthrown by yet another son” (Dash). In history, Empress Wu is known as a ruler who kept the dynasty from crumbling and as a cruel leader (Dash). The rise and rule of Empress Wu gives some historical context to the Guanyin. This Guanyin was carved during the later years of the only female ruler of China in history. I addition to the works already mentioned, Empress Wu was a patron of Buddhist art (Dash). She also funded the Seven Jewels Pagoda, which held both the Guanyin stele being studied and another stele of a Guanyin in the Freer Gallery of Art (“Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads,” “Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) with 11…show more content…
When she made some major decrees to enhance her rule, “The Third Decree ordered a large disbandment of troops, and proclaimed the intention to follow a policy of peace so as to encourage religion and virtue” (Fitzgerald 78). Her foreign policy was influenced by her support of religion. She was “an ardent Buddhist” as well (Fitzgerald 79). As a result, she supported and funded art and architecture dedicated to Buddhism. She demonstrated her support by building a large pagoda, called T’ien T’ang, which “in this [pagoda] was placed a huge wooden image of the Buddha, so large that, it is said, ‘several tens of men could stand upon its little finger’” (qtd. in Fitzgerald 133). In the building of this pagoda, the Empress spent a lavish amount of money on this pagoda and held many festivals for the Buddha in the pagoda where they were “throwing money among the crowd” (Fitzgerald 133). As demonstrated, Empress Wu was not afraid to spend money on Buddhism. This may have been the case for the Seven Jewels Pagoda because she funded the pagoda (“Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads”). Therefore, Empress Wu had a large amount of influence on this piece of artwork because she made it possible for the artwork to be carved. Something else that needs to be explored is the subject matter of the stele, which is a

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