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Figure of Guandi

Figure of Guandi

  • Place of origin:

    Zhangzhou (probably, made)
    China (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory, lacquered and gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery, case 56

This small statue of the Buddhist deity Guanyin is a reminder that Chinese women had a duty to bear male children. Made in south-east China, the figure was the personal possession of a woman, who could pray to it for fertility, or give thanks to Guanyin for the birth of a son. Carved from imported African or Asian ivory, the figure's surface is coloured with red lacquer and gilding. Guanyin and the baby she holds both look downwards, in the direction of the sleeve ends of the deity's robe, giving the figure an air of contemplation.

Physical description

Lacquered and gilt ivory figure of Guanyin the Bringer of Sons holding a baby boy on her right shoulder supported by both hands, wearing a long robe which extends to cover her hair piled on top of her head.

Place of Origin

Zhangzhou (probably, made)
China (made)


1580-1640 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Ivory, lacquered and gilded


Height: 32 cm

Object history note

This small statue of the Buddhist deity Guanyin holding a baby boy is a touching reminder of the Chinese wife's duty to bear male children. This devotional image probably graced a woman's room.

The design of the figure follows the curve of the tusk. Of the original gold lacquer little is left, except the dark red ground. In the number of places, noticeably on the skirts in front the ivory now shows through.

Descriptive line

Figure of Guanyin the Bringer of Sons, lacquered and gilt ivory, possibly Zhangzhou, China, Ming dynasty, 1580-1640

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilson, Verity. 'Identifying Women's Things in the T T Tsui Gallery'. Orientations. July 1991, photo p.38.
Kerr, Rose (ed). The T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art and Design. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1991. p. 145, no. 61.
Clunas, Craig. Chinese Carving. London: Sun Tree Publishing Ltd in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1996. front cover and p. 19, fig. 7.
Watson, William (ed). Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing. London: Oriental Ceramic Society and Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 1984. p. 58, no. 27.

Labels and date

Guanyin the Bringer of Sons
Ming dynasty

Guanyin as the bringer of sons was an object of devotion for women who would pray for fertility or thank the deity for the birth of sons.

Lacquered and gilt ivory
Probably Zhangzhou, south China

From the Eumorfopoulos collection, purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee.
Museum no. A.15-1935 [2009]
Ivory, lacquered and gilt
CHINESE; 17th century

Eumorfopoulos Collection
A15-1935 [pre 2005]




Lacquered; Gilded

Subjects depicted

Devotion; Child; 孩嬰; 送子觀音


Images Online; Sculpture; Buddhism


East Asia Collection

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