Thu, Dec 16, 2010 - Page 15 News List

Colonial era Buddhist engraving found on demolition site

A stone tablet featuring an engraving of Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion, is pictured on a Kaohsiung demolition site on Dec. 11.


A stone tablet dating from the Japanese colonial era was recently discovered during the demolition of an old property in Kaohsiung. The tablet features an engraving of Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion, sitting in a relaxed posture. The engraving is said to invigorate all who see it. Because the unusual discovery is likely to be classified as either a historical monument or artifact, the Department of Cultural Affairs ordered the landowner to immediately suspend work on the site, and historians and academics have been invited to appraise the tablet.

An official at the Department of Cultural Affairs said that the effigy of the relaxed Guanyin is also known as Cintamanicakra Avalokitesvara. It is completely different to effigies of Guanyin normally found in Taiwan’s temples, and probably belongs to a branch of Japanese Buddhism. The Department of Cultural Affairs is currently looking for experts on Japanese Buddhism to shed light on the discovery. The sculptor’s name is missing from the engraving so at the moment there’s no way of assessing its artistic value, and only its historical value can be assessed at the moment.

How the tablet is managed in future will depend on whether it is deemed to be a historical monument or an artifact. If it is deemed to be a historical monument, it will either remain at the current site or be moved elsewhere. If it’s deemed to be an artifact, it will be moved to a museum and put on display.

Senior historian Hu Chu-chuan said that he isn’t sure of the origin of the tablet, but that such effigies are common in Japanese Buddhism. He said that Japanese Buddhism has many branches, and it is normal to find such Buddhist ima-ges in mountain temples and beside quiet mountain trails.


1. demolition n.

拆除 (chai1 chu2)

例: The demolition of the old dormitory is scheduled to begin today.


2. branch n.

分支 (fen1 zhi1)

例: Harry’s family belongs to an orthodox branch of Judaism.


3. femininity n.

女性特質 (nu3 xing4 te4 zhi2)

例: The summer collection is all about femininity and sexiness.


Although the gender of Guanyin images generally isn’t specified, Hu said this particular one has an element of femininity about it. A touch of pink decoration on the crossed legs makes this carving something seldom seen in Taiwanese Buddhism.

The tablet stands on a 3m-high plinth, half of which is buried underground. There has been speculation that the tablet is a gravestone, and perhaps a body is buried below. The tablet might also mark the location of a Buddhist place of worship, but at the moment there is still no way of knowing for certain.









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