Asian Antiques and Antiquities
The passion for Asian beauty and history is fulfilled in the art of collecting Asian antiquities, art and antiques. To touch a statue created from third century BC is a thrill beyond measure. To see the intricate brushstroke of a master painter of centuries past. To meditate on the ancient serene features of a stone Buddha once worshipped by tens of thousands. Antique Zen is about sharing these delights. Here you will find not only the most beautiful art and antiques from the orient – but much of the knowledge of treasured ancestors. We are committed to sharing our expertise and will continue to add to this collection of articles – and antiques. We invite you to return monthly.

Antique Zen Antiques From Asia
Antique Zen's collection is well known among collectors. We collect from around the world, from known collectors, museums and Asian-specialty auction. Our antiques span the ages, from 3rd century BC or BCE (Before Common Era) to most centuries of the Common Era (CE, or AD in classical notations).

We have a special focus on Buddhist antiques (hence the Zen in Antique Zen), with some very fine Daoist (Taoist) pieces, along with Hindu Deities. What links our art is a common bond of the Spirit. We rarely collect antiques without spiritual significance. The highest forms of art, throughout history, were almost universally religious in nature, from the Sistine Chapel, to the great Buddhas found along the famous silk road. Our art and antiques and antiquities come primarily from:

• Tibet
• India
• Japan
• China.

Please freely navigate our collection of art, antiques and knowledge using the links below:

Antique Zen Collection
Antique Zen specializes in fine antique orientalia. Antique Zen invests in only the finest, museum quality antiques and art from around the world, for connoisseurs of Asian antiques. Our mission is to discover, collect, share and learn about all things ancient and Asian. We are Buddhist and passionate about oriental art, Asian antiques, orientalia and Buddhist art and antiques. If you are here just to learn, please read on and study our FAQ section. To view and learn about our stunning collection visit our Showcase, Highlight Gallery and Antiques and Art.

Always changing, Antique Zen collects and sells oriental antiques and art on-line – from museums, auctions, private estates – and from around the world: China, Japan, Tibet, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Orient. Ancient artifacts from as early as 300BC grace our collection. Buddhist art and antiques include antique carved reliefs and statues, Ming Dynasty statues, Tibetan bronzes and antique thankas, old Chinese jade and jewelry and Buddhist art from most periods and cultures. Antique Zen offers only the finest of Buddhist and Asian orientalia. Antique Zen's collection of fine oriental antiques and art is always changing. Our on-line catalogue is updated monthly. For the truly astonishing and unique see our Showcase. To view what's "new" in our ancient collection see our Special Gallery. The Antique Zen orientalia collection usually spans from 3rd century BC – to more recent antiques.

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Art and Antiques Delight All the Senses

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To collect and treasure valuable art and antiques from Asia is a delight for all the senses. Your nose pleasures in the musty smell of ancient blackwood carved out of one log into the stunning beauty of Guan Yin. Your eyes delight at the vibrant color of unique Yixing pottery fashioned as a peaceful Bodhisattva. Your fingers tingle as they run across the intricate gold leaf of a stunning Japanese Kannon.


History Lives in Museum Quality Antiquities
In your hands you hold a centuries old wooden sculpture, primitively carved in a tiny Chinese village temple. It is scorched, blackened by flames that destroyed the four hundred year old temple. Two hundred years ago a local merchant donated the money to clothe the charred relic in pure silver and has his name and purpose etched on the robes. And the Buddha lives on, in our private collection.

Antiquities Allow Us To Journey Time

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The smell of jasmine wafts across the south entrance of the temple. You must bend to enter – short, elaborately gilt temple doors force you to bow. As your eyes adjust to the flame of oil lamps you glimpse the reassuring images of the 'guardians' who protect the Holy shrine – faces strong, yet beautiful and peaceful. Light streams in the windows to the west and east but your eyes are drawn to the serene face of Buddha's abiding place in the north. You are studying the gilt ceiling or the long rows of statues of Bodhisattvas that reside on either side of the Buddha. You cannot take your eyes from the agonizingly beautiful face of the Buddha – so tranquil, so peaceful, so Enlightened. A feeling of quiet makes your shoulders relax. A monk, smiling so slightly, gestures, drawing you into the peace of the shrine. You slip off your shoes and follow, head bowed, the stress of the outside world forgotten.

When you open your eyes, you are sitting in your living room, staring at the peaceful and loving face of your bronze Buddha. And you realize you have journeyed in time – in your own living room.

Antiques and Art Inspire the Imagination

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You stand in front of a seven foot carved "room divider" once owned by Nelson Rockefeller and imagine what he must have felt as he studied the beautiful faces of Buddhist guardians. You caress ancient cherry amber beads once prayed over by a Shaolin monk. You sit in meditation in front of a six foot Ming dynasty Kuan Shi Yin and imagine yourself meditating seven hundred years ago at the delicate feet of the compassionate Boddhisattva.

Asian Antiques, antiquities and art have the unique power to draw you into a vortex of time. Whether you stand in a museum, staring up in awe at a forty foot Buddha, or sit in your family room holding a tiny two hundred year old Boddhisattva, these antiquities have a special power that triggers our ability to visualize, and imagine. We journey. All art and antiques have this special power. We wonder. We dream. We learn.


Appraising Antiques and Art
Art and Antiques go beyond beauty and tangible asset value. Yes, antiques are an investment that steadily (and sometimes rapidly) increases in value as they age and become rarer. But they, like us, travel through time. They remind us of our past lives, of our ancestors. They anchor us in time. Their value goes far beyond appraised value or what 'someone is willing to pay.' Ultimately, an antiquity, antique, or Asian Art is worth only what you feel it is worth. Buddhist Art and Antiques are even more subjective.

Every Asian antique and art piece contains objective value – appraised value from experts based on rarity, condition, provenance – and subjective value. Subjective value is your "personal" link to that artifact or period.

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Value of Asian Antiques and Buddhist Art
It is overly simplistic to state that the older a piece, the more valuable. However, rarity and history are what draw us all to antiquities and art. Art, by definition, is a one-time creation. It cannot be duplicated. It can be photographed, or shared in a museum or gallery. But there can be only one. Antiques are even more rare – especially antiques in good condition.

Ultimately, Antiques, antiquities and art will always increase in value. Our love for antiques and antiquities and art carries only one risk, which Buddha warned us against – attachment. But if we realize that we enjoy the antique or antiquity for "just a little while" we will not be trapped in the cycle of 'craving'.

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Appraising Asian Antiques and Art
So how is an antique, antiquity or art appraised? We use experts to help us. Opinions. As in Real Estate we use compariables. We analyze the style and condition to measure authenticity. We also judge the provenance – for example we know that the "guardians room divider" was owned by Nelson A. Rockefeller – and by condition, by the style and characteristics. We can verify our appraisal by studying other pieces of the period, by confirming with experts and by comparables. The savvy collector studies the market for Asian Antiques, using as comparables the "appraised" prices of the Asian sales at Sotheby's and Christie's.

In the end, though, Asian art and antiques call out to certain people. If it is 'for you' you will know it – just as we knew it when we started collecting. But you should also know it will not be with you forever. Just as your journey is forever, the journey of the antique and antiquity carries on beyond our lifetimes.

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The Art of Craving
Buddha taught that "craving" is the evil that binds us to rebirth. It is difficult not to 'crave' such beautiful art and antiques until you realize that they are with you for just a little while. Three hundred years from now another delighted collector will meditate at the feet of the Buddha you once had as your "guest."

At Antique Zen our collection is a quest to preserve, share and educate. We put our collection online for all to see. We "sell" pieces to devout and passionate collectors in the sure knowledge they will move through time, timeless, priceless and treasured.

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The Sangha and Sharing
We are part of the growing Sangha. We share not just our art and antiques, but our expertise. This website will grow as our collection grows, becoming an archive of arcane and priceless information which we freely share with all. The Buddha's wisdom, the beauty of Asian art and antiques, the antiquities of our ancestors – and the knowledge of the Buddha, the Darma and the Sangha – are for sharing.

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The Buddha

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The account of the Buddha's life which has come down to us was transmitted orally for many centuries. It is believed by Theravada Buddhists that the Buddha was born in 624 B.C., although some scholars think that this date is too early and that it is more likely to have been about 543 B.C.

At that time, there was a small country in what is now southern Nepal that was ruled by a clan called the Shakyas. The head of this clan, and the king of this country, was named Shuddodana Gotama, and his wife was the beautiful Mahâ Mâyâ. Mâyâ was expecting her first born. As was the custom of the day, Queen Mahâ Mâyâ traveled to her father's kingdom for the birth. But during the long journey, her birth pains began and her child was born in the Lumbin” Park near the city of Kapilavatthu. The couple named their son Gotama Siddhattha, which means "he who has accomplished his aim".

Born a rich prince he was horrified by the suffering of all humans. He wandered as a renunciate, seeking salvation in meditation. He was enlightened and became the Buddha, preaching the eightfold path and the four noble truths that eliminated craving and suffering from the world.

The Four Noble Truths expressed the cycle of suffering: that craving is the cause of all suffering; that there is a remedy for this suffering that leads to freedom from suffering. The path of the Buddha is the remedy for suffering, the fourth of the noble truths. These could be summarized as eliminating craving through moral conduct, meditation and wisdom.

Although Buddha was Enlightened he was not God. Buddha preached how man could become perfect and free from suffering. Buddha taught others how they could become free from suffering, Enlightened, and Buddhas or Boddhisattvas.

We respect and honor the Enlightened One with statues and art that reflect his guidance, perfection and peace. Buddha is always portrayed sitting on the ground – rarely in a chair. Siddartha Buddha, Guatama Buddha, the Historical Buddha is sometimes standing, or walking, but never wears a crown or jewels or sits in a throne. He wore simple robes with no adornment. His face is serene and beautiful and peaceful. The Antique Zen collection includes some of the most beautiful expressions of Buddha Art. To gaze on the Buddha's likeness is to feel peace.

Many Buddhas

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Buddha taught the way for all people to become Enlightened and become Buddhas. There were, he taught, Buddhas before him. There would be Buddhas after him. Siddartha Buddha (Tathagata, Guatama, Shakyamuni, Sakyamuni) is often called the 'historical' Buddha because he was known to have lived in 'our time'.

Principal among the Buddhas that preceeded Him were Amita (Amitahabra, Amida) Buddha, the Buddha of Compassion. There were many others, equally as inspirational, from Yoshifu, the Medicine Buddha, through to the cosmic Buddhas.

The Future Buddha

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The next Enlightened Buddha is currently the Boddhisattva Maitreya. He is respected as a Buddha in many cultures, and has reached Enlightenment but lingers to help those who suffer in the world. He will be the next Buddha and save the world from attachment, suffering and craving with a renewed message. He will become the Buddha when the world begins to forget the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha (Sage of the Shakyas – his father's kingdom). Maitreya's name means 'benevolence' and is known in Japan as Miroku, in Chinese as Miluo Fo, in Tibet as Byams-pa, to Mongols he is Maijdari and to the Vietnamese is is Di-lac.

The Boddhisattvas

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Buddha was Enlightened, showed the way to the world, and was released from suffering with paranirvana. The followers of Buddha – from many of his disciples (the Arhats) to many of the believers who followed – became Enlightened by Buddha's teachings but delayed their final nirvana so as to help the world and ease the world's suffering.

Buddhists are inspired by the examples of the Boddhisattvas, following their peaceful ways, chanting their peaceful sutras and meditating on their peaceful statues and paintings.

Avolokiteshvara, known as Guan Yin in China (Kuan Yin, Kuan Shi Yin "He who looks down with compassion") is the best known of the compassionate Boddhisattvas, much loved around the world. Avolokiteshvara, sometimes depicted as a man, sometimes as a woman (especially in China). The Boddhisattva is truly beyond the limitations of sex or craving. They are reborn, lifetime after lifetime, into the world – sometimes male, sometimes female – to continue the compassionate work of the Dharma.


The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha
The three jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddha brought Enlightenment to save those who suffered. The Dharma is his word and 'the way' – similar in concept to the Dao of Doaism (Taoism). The Sanha, the final jewel, is the community of Buddhists, carrying on the good work.

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The Buddha's Life
The Buddha was born a prince of the Shakyas in Northern India in the sixth century before Christ. He was named Siddhartha, the son of Prince Suddhodana and Princess Maya, of the clan of Gautama. Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in the garden of Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, at the foot of the Himilayas near Nepal.

In a tradition that predates Christianity, he was born without conception, decending as a perfected Bodhisattva from the higher heaven of Tushita. His birth was foretold by many Brahman priests and wise men.

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The Historical Buddha
Historically, Siddhartha Buddha lived, a Prince in northern Indian who become dissatisfied with the suffering of the people. He became a holy aspirant who sought Enlightenment. Ultimately, after years of privation, he achieved Enlightenment and taught the Dharma (the way, the Eightfold Path and the Four Truths) to his followers (the Sangha). When his work was done, he passed in peace – his paranirvana – after having changed the world. Buddhism would change India and all of Asia, and become a dominant and peaceful force in the world.

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The Twelve Acts of Buddha's Life
The more spiritually uplifting story of Buddha's life involves beautiful symbolism in the twelve Acts of Buddha's Life:

  1. The Boddhisattva Sayka-muni decends from Tushita (heaven) in the form of a spiritual white elephant

  2. Siddhartha enters Maya, his mother, without any pain.

  3. In ten months he is born, a beautiful child. His birth is signaled by many great manifestations and celebrations from heaven.

  4. Buddha, miraculously, as a new born child takes seven steps in the four directions (corresponding to the four miseries of life). He is raised as a Prince, but surrenders himself to meditation on suffering. His father, warned by a Sage that Siddartha would either be a great king or a great Sage, shelters his son from the outside world so that he won't see the evil of the real world and become a Holy Man.

  5. Siddhartha is married to Yosoda and has a son Rahula, but does not enjoy life and withdraws more and more. Finally, inspired to find the purpose for life, he steals out of the palace and witnesses, for himself, the evils of the world: old age, sickness and death. Inspired by a Holy Man, he renounces his rich and comfortable life.

  6. Siddhartha, at the age of twenty-nine, leaves the palace to pursue the ascetic life. He cuts his hair and becomes the Sakya-muni (the sage of the Sakyas). For years he seeks Enlightenment, helping and caring for others, learning from all the sages and ascetics. Dissatisfied with their wisdom he continues to wander, his fame growing.

  7. Weary of false teachers he becomes a true ascetic, mortifying his body, followed by five disciples. For six years he gives himself up to painful abuse, sustaining himself on a single grain of rice a day, until he is little more than a skeleton. As he meditates under a tree, two young sisters seeing that he is nearly dead, offer him a bowl of milk and honey. He realizes that the way is balance, not ascetism.

  8. Inspite of the reproach of his disciples, he sits under a tree near Bodh-Gaya and declares that he will not leave until he has attained the Bodhi – perfect knowledge. One night he obtains Enlightenment and gains full perception of all his previous lives, gains understanding of the destruction of evil desires and the twelve causes of suffering. He becomes the Buddha as he understands the way to eliminate suffering.

  9. Mara, the evil one, tempts him with visions and dreams of horrors and temptations – delightful women, and rampaging armies and terrible torrents of nature. Unmoved, Buddha continues to meditate, unafraid of Maya's temptations and the struggle with his own past temptations and lives. Mara even offers him Celestial Buddhahood, which he declines so that he may teach man the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path to salvation.

  10. After seven times seven more days under the tree, the Enlightened Buddha continues to meditate. Finally he goes forth to teach and to gather the worthy disciples, the Arhats. (the Worthy, or Saints).

  11. He preaches for the first time the four noble truths and the eightfold path, the turning of the Wheel of the Law.

  12. Buddha continued to preach and help people for forty-five years, performing many miracles and converting many with his ability to explain the path to Enlightenment. Even his former wife and son become disciples. At over eighty years of age he passes into paranirvana, final extinction. He will be reborn no longer into suffering. His paranirvana is dated at 477 BC.

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The Four Truths of Buddha
In his famous discourse at Benares, Buddha espoused the four holy truths:

  1. That there is pain (Duha) which traps us in an endless cycle of suffering, death and rebirth.

  2. That the pain is caused by craving (Samudaya).

  3. That suppression of craving can eliminate pain (Nirodha).

  4. That the path to suppressing craving is the eightfold path (arya ashtangika marga).

The Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path is the fourth truth – the path to suppressing the craving that leads to all suffering. The goal of the eightfold path is to eliminate the cycle of twelve causes. A sense of morality – right thought, right conduct and right action – leads to the first steps toward perfection.

The Bodhisattva Way
Since each life of suffering leads to further suffering and rebirth (karmic law), Bodhisattvas who have obtained Enlightenment stay in the world to help humans. The Bodhisattvas are both ideals and objects of veneration. The Bodhisattvas are not gods, or even Buddhas, but Enlightened beings who hold the keys to wisdom and the secrets to life and rebirth. Many of the most valued antiques and Buddhist artworks are of Bodhisattvas – symbolic of their power. The Buddhist, the Sangha, aspire to follow the Bodhisattva Way.

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A Glossary of Buddhas
The collector is likely to have a "patron" Buddha or Bodhisattva. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas represent similar ideals with slightly different pathways to Enlightenment. Many routes to the same destination. Most Buddhists focus on the Buddha or Bodhisattva closest to them. For reference, here are some of the Buddhas venerated in Buddhist Antiques and Art and (in brakets) how they are typically recognized:

  • Amida Buddha: The compassionate Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light, in sanskrit Amitabha, in Chinese Omitofo. Amida is the ethereal form of the Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Amida was so moved by the suffering of the world that he is the spiritual father of the blessed Bodhisattva Kuan Shi Yin (Guan Yin or Avalokitesvara). Amida, is certainly the most beloved of the Buddhas. Amida so loved the world that he offered another way to escape rebirth – through Sukhavati, the Western Paradise of Infinite Light. (Amida, the celestial manifestation of Shakyamuni, is often posed as the Historical Buddha)

  • Adi Buddha: The first one, the wise one. (Adi Buddhas are typically in regal robes and often crowned to signify their celestial nature.)

  • Buddha: The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni, the Sage of the Shakyas, the living Buddha of our age. (Buddha is often sitting in a lotus, never in a chair, in plain loose robes with a high chignon and a beautiful, peaceful face)

  • Manla: The Supreme Physician, called Yao-shi-fo in China (Yaku-shi in Japan), is one of the most beloved of the Buddhas. He is the most compassionate of the Buddhas, the Healer, the Buddha of Charity. He was already a Buddha before Shakyamuni become a Buddha. (Manla, the Medicine Buddha, sits in lotus, has a beautiful Buddha face and holds a medicine bowl in the right hand and/or a branch with fruit in the left.)

  • Samantabahadra: Buddha of Universal Kindness, the Tibetan Adi Buddha, Fujen in Japan. (Uniquely not crowned or in regal robes.)

  • Vajradhara: the indestructible, lord of mysteries, master of secrets, the outer manifestation of Adi Buddha. (Normally holding a thunderbold, seated as Buddha.)

  • Vajrasattva: Buddha of Supreme Intelligence. (Often portrayed holding the special emblem of the Svabhavika, a trident rising from a lotus flower.)

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A Glossary of Bodhisattvas

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The Bodhisattvas are full of compassion and love for humanity. They are "closer" to the unenlightened and seek to save the human race from suffering. The best known of the blessed ones are:

  • Avalokitesvara, the Compassion of Buddha, is the most popular of the Bodhisattvas. In China she is beloved as Guan Shi Yin or Kuan Yin, the most beautiful. In Tibet he has a hundred arms to reach out and comfort all the suffering of the world. More on Avalokitesvara.

  • Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism and father of Kung Fu, the original patriarch of Zen who carried Buddhism from India to China. Bodhidharma sat in a cave for seven years to achieve Enlightenment, not moving, eating or drinking. (He is often portrayed as a wild eyed monk.)

  • Jizo, much beloved as the savior of those in trouble – and the dead – in Japan. He is Kshitigarbha in India or Ti-Tsang in China. Jizo is the "Mystery of the Earth", sometimes called the 'good judge.' He is the "master of the six world's of desire.' (Jizo is often depicted as a shaven monk, walking in simple robes.)

  • Maitreya, the future Buddha. Just as Siddhartha was a Bodhisattva before his paranirvana, Maitreya will be the next Buddha. He will "turn the wheel" when the world has forgotten the teachings of Siddhartha Buddha. He is considered both a Buddha and a Bodhisattva. (Maitreya is either standing or seated in lotus with a stuppa as a crown.)

  • Manjusri, Bodhisattva of Wisdom, holding the sword that cuts through ignorance. He was a wandering monk who gained Enlightenment and journeyed to Nepal where he preached the Dharma. In China he is known as Wenshu and in Japan Monju. (Manjusri normally holds a sword or rides an elephant.)

  • Tara: the saviouress, beloved of Tibet, the spiritual daughter of Avalokitesvara. Tara's name is called upon by those in danger, in pain or the sufferers. There are thousands of stories of Tara helping those who call her name. Of all the Bodhisattvas, Tara's name is the one most likely to be called upon by those in pain. Her compassion and joy are boundless. (Tara is always a young woman, often crowned and jeweled.)

  • Vajrapani, the thunderbolt, was Buddha's 'guardian' and appeared at his birth, helped Siddhartha escape from his father's palace, and stood over Buddha as he passed through paranirvana. Vajrapani is the 'enemy' of evil and conqueror of demons and cravings. (Varjapani is always shown holding a thunderbolt.)
  • Vajravana, the Bodhisattva of the Northern Realm, (Tamon-ten or Bishamon-ten in Japan, Duowen in China, Rnam Thos-kyu Bu in Tibet) is sometimes called the King of the North. He is often associated with "wealth" and success and fabulous treasures. He is also a healing Bodhisattva, with many miracles associated with his worship.

  • Wei-to, the Protector, the guardian of Buddha. In Chinese temples Wei-to is always a kind faced warrior leaning on his sword, standing facing Buddha at the entrance. He is beloved of the Chinese.
Avalokitesvara and Guan Shi Yin

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From Tibet – where he is the patron Bodhisattva of the dalai Lama – to Japan, where he is Kannon, the Merciful, Avalokitesvara is the most universally beloved of the Bodhisattvas. Avalokitesvara embodies compassion and is often depicted with a hundred arms and many heads to symbolize the many arms that reach out to help people.

In China, the merciful nature of Avalokitesvara is embodied in Guan Shi Yin, or Kuan Yin – "He who looks down with compassion." Kuan Yin is often depicted as either male or female, and in Northern China is "the Goddess" worshiped by millions of devoted followers. The nurturing nature of Guan Yin's compassion led to the familiar "motherly" depictions of the beloved Bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara, or Guan Yin, is the name called out by sufferers in pain, or women in childbirth, or the oppressed of the world. There are thousands of stories of miracles of compassion associated with the blessed Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Avalokitesvara is the spiritual son or emanation of the compassion of Amida and the spiritual father of Tara.


A Glossary of Asian and Sanskrit
Collectors should understand some of the commonly used terms that help identify the sculptures and paintings of Asian and Buddhist Art, Antiquities and Antiques. Often the mudra (hand gesture) of a statue is the only way to identify a Buddha. Here is a basic glossary:

  • Abhaya, the Blessing of Fearlessness, the mudra (hand gesture) of protection, used by Buddha to immediately calm a rampaging elephant. The arm is elevated and slightly bent with the palm turned outward.

  • Akasa, the void, the uncreated.

  • Amrita, the dew of life. Guan Yin often carries a jar containing amrita, sweet dew.

  • Anjali, the mudra of salutation, both arms stretched out, palms upward, sacred to Avalokitesvara and Amida.

  • Asana, symbolic support of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, normally a lotus flower.

  • Aum, or Om, is the sacred breath, a chant used in meditation, the blessed word.

  • Bhagavat, "the happy one" refers to the Buddha

  • Bhikshu, a Buddhist monk, one who assumes the beggars staff and bowl and takes the way of the Dharma and meditation.

  • Bhumisparsa, mudra of 'the witness', with the palm turned inward and all the fingers extended downward with the third finger touching the lotus throne and the left hand turned upward on the lap. This was the mudra used by Buddha to invoke the Gods to witness his defeat of Mara (temptation of evil). Very popular pose in Shakyamunit statues.

  • Bodhi, Enlightenment.

  • Bodhi-druma, the tree of Enlightenment. Buddha sat under a fig tree, his Bodhi-druma, when he obtained Enlightenment.

  • Buddhasmarana, mudra of salutation with the right hand raised to the head, palm outward.

  • Caitya, or Stupa, a Buddhist sanctuary. The arhats, the disciples of Buddha, buried parts of Buddha under sacred stupas, dividing them among many countries. Miniature stupas are symbols of sanctuary. Maitreya is often depicted with a stupa as a crown.

  • Cakra, the wheel, a symbol of completeness and the cycles, symbolizing Buddha's wheel of the law, with eight spokes representing the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. The wheel is one of the most powerful amulets and symbols of Buddhism and Vedic beliefs.

  • Camara, a fly whisk, symbolic of Buddhist Enlightenment and power. Monks, sworn not to kill, carried the whisk as a symbol of their faith, unable to kill insects and preferring to whisk them away. Devout monks even carried brooms to sweep away insects lest they walk on them and kill them.

  • Cintamani, the sacred jewel or magic gem, which satisfies all desires. It is the special symbol of Kshitigarbha, Samantabahadra and Gizo. It takes many forms.

  • Dharma, the law of Buddha. The three jewels of Buddhism are expressed in the chant: "I take refuge in the three jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha – until I reach Enlightenment." Buddha taught to trust in him, his word (the Dharma) and his followers (the Sangha).

  • Dhyana, or Samadhi, deep meditation. Amida is often portrayed in the mudra of Dhyana – hands lie across the lap, right on top of the left, fingers extended and palms upward.

  • Fuh-shou-can, Buddha's fingers symbolized as a 'horned lemon', the symbol of Manla, Yoishifo, the Medicine Buddha.

  • Gaja, the elephant, sacred to Samantabahadra. The white elephant symbolizes Buddha. Elephants are sacred all over Asia.

  • Ghanta, bell with a Vajra (thunderbolt) handle, used in Buddhist ceremony.

  • Hinayana, "the small conveyance", the literal doctrine of Shakyamuni, the Buddha. Believers strictly follow Buddha's teachings

  • Hossu, the symbol of monk's moral leadership, the fly whisk that prevents him from 'killing' insects by accident.

  • Kalasa, the vase that holds the amrita, the elixir of life, carried by Kuan Yin and Padmapani.

  • Khagpa, the sword of Enlightenment, that cuts through ignorance, the special symbol of Manjusri.

  • Lakshana, the thirty-two symbols by which you can recognize a Buddha, including the Ushnisha and Urna.

  • Madhyamayana, the middle conveyance.

  • Mahayana, the greater conveyance – the way of the Bodhisattva.

  • Mala, the sacred rosary of Avalokitesvara, used in meditation and prayer by monks and followers.

  • Mandala, the sacred symbol of the universe, drawn in squares and circles (in colored sand grains by Tibetan monks to symbolize impermanence), and sacred symbols.

  • Mantra, sacred mystic sounds, repeated in meditation and prayer and powerful in moving the mind towards Enlightenment.

  • Mo-yu, fish drum used in sacred ceremonies in Buddhist Chinese and Japanese temples.

  • Mudra, symbols of power formed with the hands, used in ceremonies and meditation, and by which many statues and paintings are identified. Used together with Mantras they are considered very powerful.

  • Muni, a saint or sage. Shakya-muni, Buddha, is the "Sage" of the Shakyas.

  • Naga, serpant spirits, symbolic of earth power, said to have protected Buddha from the elements as he meditated on Enlightenment. Often that Naga is represented in art and statues as a giant cobra.

  • Nirvana, the extinction of worldly desires and cravings that leads to Enlightenment. Contrary to popular belief amongst non-Buddhists, Nirvana is neither paradise (delighting in paradise is a form of craving) or extinction of existence. It is the highest stage of bliss, "the blowing out of selfish desires."
  • Om, the sacred syllable, chanted in meditation, said to have mystic power.

  • Paranirvana, the ultimate nirvana of Buddha, release from this world.

  • Paravara, a group of Bodhisattvas

  • Patra, the begging bowl carried by Buddha, the arhats and the Sanha monks. Patra was more than a symbol of release from craving and desires, it showed the dedication of monks to the Dharma.

  • Prajnika, the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

  • Sakti, the female energy or aspect of a Bodhisattva.

  • Samadhi, the deepest form of meditation.

  • Sankha, a Conch shell, symbolic of the preaching of Buddha.

  • Sarira, bones, relics or ashes of the Buddha, buried under a stupa.

  • Simha, the lion, symbolic of courage and strength, sacred to Vairocana.

  • Sukhavati, the Western Paradise of Amida. Amida so loved his people that he gave them a less 'agonizing' way to find Enlightenment – rebirth in Sukhavati, possible through prayer, meditation and devotion.

  • Sutra, the words of Buddha.

  • Svastika, or Manji, a sacred symbol of Buddhism, often confused with the reverse direction symbol of Nazism. It often appears on Buddha's chest, over his heart or on his lotus 'throne'. It is symbolic of life and the heart (compassion).

  • Tantra, mystical treatises that offer a "mystical" way to Enlightenment, most often practiced in Tibet. Tantra's mystical symbols, gestures, mudras, and ceremonies heighten awareness of the way to Enlightnment.

  • Tathagata, is the highest 'title' of the Buddha, Tatha, means "thus" and "gata" translates as "gone". It signifies that the Buddha will not be born again and has escaped the cycle of suffering through Enlightenment.

  • Triratna, the three jewels: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

  • Urna, the third eye or divine eye, symbolic of spiritual insight and Enlightenment. Often the urna is depicted as a tuft of hair between the two eyes, one of the thirty-two signs of a Buddha.

  • Ushnisha, the protuberance of the skull, symbolizes wisdom, the divine manas. Often the Ushnisha is portrayed with a pile of long wavy or curled hair drawn up to a high point.

  • Vashra, literally 'diamond' or 'that which is indestructible.' Thunderbolts are symbolic of 'that which is indestructible', symbolic of mystic truth.

  • Yin Yang, literally 'male' and 'female', symbolic of the many opposing forces that constitute existence. Although this is one of the most powerful symbols in Taoism (Daoism) it is often used in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism as the perfect symbol for balance and harmony.

  • Yoga, the practice of 'ecstatic meditation', the union of the spiritual and material in a union – 'yoga.'.

  • Zushi, a traveling shrine, popular in Japan and treasured by collectors. It allowed devout Buddhists to carry a portable Buddhist shrine with them on long journeys. They are often beautifully carved and gilt, and fold into secure and ornate boxes.

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