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Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy


Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy is the bodhisattva of compassion as venerated by Chinese Buddhists. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means "Observing the Sounds or Cries of the World". She is also sometimes referred to as Guanyin Pusa. Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin is also revered by Chinese Taoists as an Immortal.

Some Buddhists believe that when one of their adherents departs from this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus, and then sent to the western pure land.


One Buddhist legend from the Complete Tale of Guanyin and the Southern Seas presents Guanyin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from the samsara or reincarnation. Despite strenuous effort, she realised that there were still many unhappy beings yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. The buddha Amitabha, upon seeing her plight, gave her eleven heads to help her hear the cries of those who are suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokitesvara attempted to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that her two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha came to her aid and appointed her a thousand arms to let her reach out to those in need.


In China, it is said that fishermen used to pray to her to ensure safe voyages. The titles Guanyin of the Southern Ocean and "Guanyin of the Island" stem from this tradition.

In Chinese Buddhism, Guanyin is synonymous with the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Among the Chinese, Avalokitesvara is almost exclusively called Guanshiyin Pusa. The Chinese translation of many Buddhist sutras has in fact replaced the Chinese transliteration of Avalokitesvara with Guanshiyin. Some Daoist scriptures give her the title of Guanyin Dashi, and sometimes informally as Guanyin Fozu.

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