Extant large bronze Ming Buddhist figures are extremely rare, and the current figure of Guanyin is a great example of these fine works of Buddhist art.
The worship of Guanyin has its roots in India and found its way to China with the advent of Buddhism. Since then Guanyin has become one of the most popular bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism. Known as Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit, Guanyin has also been freely translated as Guanshiyin (observer of the world's sounds), Guanzizai (the sovereign beholder), Guanshizizai (the sovereign regarder), Guangshiyin (a variant of Guanshiyin), etc. During the Tang dynasty, the abbreviated form Guanyin was adopted to avoid the character shi appearing in the personal name of Taizong, i.e. Li Shimin. Guanyin has also been referred to by other names, such as Yuantong Dashi (the omnipresent hearer of those who call), Dabei Pusa (the bodhisattva of great mercy) and Lianhuashou (Padmapani). According to Lotus Sutra: The Universal Gates of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Guanyin is a bodhisattva of great mercy and determined to relieve the suffering caused by the twelve nidanas. Upon hearing sufferers'calls, Guanyin will come and rid them of all miseries. Xunsheng jiuku, the act of "searching for sufferers' calls and alleviating miseries", exemplifies the great compassion Guanyin feels towards all beings. As required, Guanyin can assume thirty-three forms to relieve suffering. Worshipped by both Chinese and Tibetan Buddhists, Guanyin is held in great reverence and constantly mentioned in the prayers of devout Tibetans as the patron deity of the frozen land of the Tibetan Plateau. In Tibetan Buddhism, Guanyin is often represented as Padmapani (characterized by Guanyin holding a lotus flower), Simhanada Avalokitesvara (characterised by riding a lion), Sadaksari Avalokitesvara (four-armed Guanyin), Ekadasamukha (eleven-faced Guanyin), etc. In central China, Guanyin has been variously depicted as Shengguanyi (holy Avalokitesvara), Sahasrabhuja-sahasranetra (thousand-handed and thousand-eyed Guanyin), Hayagriva (horseheaded Guanyin) and so on, which are collectively known as 'the six or seven most popular forms of Guanyin'. Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta are often depicted as the attending bodhisattvas flanking Amitabha Buddha, the lord of the Buddhist western paradise. This trinity so formed is popularly described as the 'three Sages of the West'.