Who was Kuan-Yin? - Chinese Buddhist goddess
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Who was Kuan-Yin?


Kuan-Yin was a Chinese Buddhist goddess based on a real woman, the way Kuan-Ti was based on a real man. According to the story, her father murdered her, and she went down to the underworld. But when she got there, she recited the holy books, and that prevented the god of the underworld from torturing the dead souls. He didn't like that, and so he sent Kuan-Yin back to be alive again. When Kuan-Yin came back to life, she spent all her time studying Buddhist ideas, and so the Buddha made her immortal (so she would never die).

Kuan Yin became the goddess of mercy and compassion. She was very popular. People who wanted her to help them shook rattles and set off firecrackers to get her attention. She is usually shown as a lady holding a baby, dressed in white, sitting on a lotus.

Stories about Kuan-Yin seem to have actually gotten started from stories about a male Indian boddhisatva called Avalokitesvara. Somehow, along the way, Kuan-Yin changed both her name and her gender!

More about the Chinese gods
Learn by doing: Buddhism project

Bibliography and further reading about Chinese gods:

Kuan-yin, by Chun-Fang Yu (2000). Not , but a detailed account of the historical development of this Chinese goddess.

The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China, by Leonard Everett Fisher (2003). . One page for each god, with lots of pictures and some historical context.

Five Heavenly Emperors: Chinese Myths of Creation, by Song Nan Zhang (1994). Stories .

Chinese Mythology A to Z, by Jeremy Roberts (2004).

Dragons and Demons : Myths of China, by Stewart Ross (1998). A few Chinese stories, retold .

Dragons, Gods and Spirits from Chinese Mythology, by Tao Sanders (1983). More of a child's encyclopedia.

More about the Chinese gods
More about Chinese religion
Ancient China
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 26 April, 2017