The image of Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, in the elaborate crown of this magnificent multi-armed figure identifies him as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, perhaps the most venerated and popular Buddhist deity. His forty-two radiating arms represent the concept of an infinite number, and this, combined with the various implements he grasps, signify his power and unlimited compassion for all sentient beings.
This rare figure belongs to a distinctive group of 10th-12th century gilt-bronze figures that display a unique blend of Chinese and south-east Asian influences. Figures of bodhisattvas appear to constitute the majority of images in this group, and are characterized by similar facial features and elaborate, bejewelled costume and a distinctive high, beehive-shaped crown. Most of these figures are shown either standing, such as the example in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, illustrated in Hai-wai yi-zhen: Chinese Art in Overseas Collections - Buddhist Sculpture, Taiwan, 1986, p. 156, no. 145, or seated cross-legged in dhyanasana, such as the example in The Art Institute of Chicago, illustrated by S. E. Lee and Wai-kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368), The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, no. 10. Of the published examples, the present figure is the most elaborate from this group, and unusual in bearing a multitude of arms and being seated with both legs pendent. The closest comparable figure appears to be the twenty-four-armed figure idenitified as Amoghapasa shown seated in dhyanasana and dated to the late 11th century in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by S.E. Lee and Wai-Kam Ho, op. cit., no. 11. Like the present figure, the Metropolitan Museum figure holds in the two top hands representations of the sun and moon, rare imagery that shows the continuity of Northern Buddhist iconography from the late Tang to Liao dynasty. Both figures also hold in their lowest proper right hand a lasso, which, according to the authors in the note for the entry, "binds all evil, pulls the souls from the ocean of illusion, and, when in the form of a net of compassion, covers the thousand universes."