Next to the Buddha, the most popular of all Buddhist deities is Kuan-yin, commonly called the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Due to its Indian origin, early Kuan-yin images were represented as Gandharan princes sumptuously dressed in dhotis and adorned with silk scarves and rich jewelry. Held in the left hand is a lotus bud, the Buddhist symbol of purity.
This figure of Kuan-yin is especially significant in that it provides the only dated example of a regional sub-style that marks a departure from the rigid frontality that characterized the sculpture of earlier generations. Inscriptions on the base date the sculpture to 571 and indicate it was commissioned by Meng-yen, a district magistrate; Meng Sung-hsun, a village head; and 41 civic leaders who helped establish a temple at Ku-shih po-Ssu near Sian in Shansi province. By 581, the statue had been desecrated by anti-Buddhists but in that year, according to the second inscription, the temple was restored and rededicated.