Posts Tagged ‘bodhisattva’

Close up of Kuan Yin before she was put in place high up the mizzen mast. She holds a sprig of willow in her right hand and vase of "holy" water in her left.

Many people have asked me about the figurehead standing halfway up the mizzen (aft) mast of “Kuan Yin”. Who is she? What is the she doing up there?

The figure is, of course, Kuan Yin herself – the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion who is revered throughout Asia. More specifically she is the “patron saint” of fishermen, sailors and expectant mothers. All of them wishing for a safe passage!

Properly, she is a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, meaning “the lord who looks upon the world with compassion” and can also be represented as a man. However, as compassion has been reckoned a feminine virtue, Avalokiteshvara is now suually represented as a woman.

The tradition of having a figurehead on a sailing vessel goes back at least to the 15th century, and to the Greeks and Romans in the West if the non-figurative emblems are included. The purpose of the figurehead was to ward off evils and dangers, to pacify the seas and to help illiterate sailors find their ship. (more…)


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