Carvings of Guanyin fashioned from amber are recorded to have furnished imperials halls during the Qianlong period. According to the Qinggong chenshedang [Archive of decoration and display of the Qing court], a hupo figure of Guanyin was presented as tribute by a Ministry Councillor on the 8th day of the 4th month of the 9th year of Qianlong (corresponding to 1744), which was then placed in the Main Hall on the Waixi road of the Inner Court on the 29th day of the 9th month of the 34th year of his reign (corresponding to 1769).
The art of amber carving reached its zenith during the 18th century, when a vast range of objects was produced at both the Imperial workshops located in the Forbidden City and select ateliers in Suzhou. A fossilised tree resin, amber was a rare and highly treasured material which appealed not only for its attractive natural hues but also for the beneficial properties it was believed to possess, such as self-healing, transmuting negative energy into positive, as well as being effective for detoxification.
Known as the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, Guanyin could take as many as thirty-three forms in order aid all sentient beings before entering Buddhahood. With her standing on waves and her hands crossed in front of her waist, this figure represents the deity in her Non-Duality form, possessing the ability to protect all Buddhas from unwholesome forces. Guanyin figures were more commonly produced in jades, see two figures in the Palace Museum, Beijing, the first carved from a spinach-green pebble, illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji fenlei. Zhongguo yuqi quanji. 6. Qing [Complete collection of Chinese arts. Compendium of Chinese Jade, vol. 6: Qing], Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 336, and the other, in celadon jade, published in Gugong bowuyuan wenwu cangpin daxi. Yuqi juan/Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade, vol. 10: Qing, Beijing, 2011, pl. 243.
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