The guanding yin, or abhiseka mudra, is used only by esoteric sects during rites of initiation, usually for the entry of a novice monk into the Buddhist order.
There are significant similarities between the present figure and that of a small lacquered-wood figure of Guanyin illustrated by A. Priest, Chinese Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1944, pl. CXXVIII, which can be dated to the year 1624 by a piece of silk found inside the figure that bears the date and the names of the donors. The Metropolitan Museum's figure shares with the current figure similar treatment in the eye sockets, eye brows and realistically modelled nose and full lips, as well as simplified and elegant treatment of the drapery. The present figure also bears similarities to the Ming dynasty gilt and lacquered-wood figure of the seated Buddha illustrated in Ancient Chinese Sculptural Treasures: Carvings in Wood, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, 1998, p. 49, no. 2.
For another figure with hands held in guanding yin, see the 16th century gilt-bronze figure of Guanyin sold in these rooms, 20 September 2001, lot 321.