Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, is regal in a rocky outcropping on Mount Potalaka, his island paradise. On a rock ledge to the right is a kundika water sprinkler in a crystal basin holding a willow branch, symbol of the deity's healing powers. The boy pilgrim Sudhana (K. Sonjae Tongja) stands in the lower right raising his hands in a gesture of reverence (anjali mudra). Supplicants at the left are an older devotee in court dress and an attendant proferring a branch of coral. A bird flies over diamond-shaped rocks jutting up from the sea on the left and bamboo trees arch from the rocks on the right.
The iconography derives from the Avatamsaka Sutra, the representative text of the Hwaom (Ch. Hua Yen, J. Kegon) sect of Buddhism that was founded in China in the 7th century and quickly found converts in Korea and Japan. The sutra describes the sacred island realm of Avalokitesvara, most worshipped Bodhisattva of the Buddhist pantheon who has forsaken enlightenment to help human beings attain salvation. The story of the boy pilgrim Sudhana is in the Gandhavyuha, or "Entering the Dharma World," chapter that relates his journey to fifty-three deities in search of ultimate truth. The island here is his twenty-eighth stop.
The fluid, deft painting in gold pigment on a dark indigo ground may be compared to 14th to 15th-century Korean Buddhist paintings, one in the National Museum of Korea, Seoul (dated 1307) and one in the collection of Saifukuji, Japan.