The majority of China's early depictions of favored Buddhist subjects and deities included works centering on Shakyamuni and Maitreya, however in the Sui and Tang periods, Avalokiteshvara and Amitabha were painted and carved in greater numbers. According to Chun-fang Yu, ed. Marsha Weidner, Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850-1850, Lawrence, Kansas, 1994, p. 152, a list of statues at Luoyang after the early Tang period included 222 of Amitabha, 197 of Avalokiteshvara, 94 of Shakyamuni, and 62 of Maitreya. The willow branch iconography can be traced to the complex sinicization of Avalokiteshvara in relation to the developments in Chinese worship of the deity. The willow branch attribute is not seen in Indian and Tibetan depictions of the bodhisattva, and can possibly be connected to the importance placed on the intense recitation of the Dharani Sutra of Invoking Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to Dissipate and Subdue Poison and Harm (Qing Guanshiyin Pusa xiaofu duhai tuoluoni zhoujing), first translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by Zhu Nanti of the Eastern Jin dynasty, in which Buddha directs ailing disciples to offer Avalokiteshvara willow branches and clean water in order to receive his great mercy. A painting in Dunhuang depicts a standing Avalokiteshvara with willow branch in the raised hand, the capelet not crossed in front as the present example but similarly draped over the arms, illustrated in Weidner, op. cit., pl. 47. Two paintings from the Qian Fo Dong at Dunhuang, now at the British Museum, acc. nos 1919,0101,0.14 and 1919,0101,0.157, also portray the bodhisattva with a willow branch.
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