|Great Master, Kuan-yin
Chao I (fl. late 14th c.), Yüan Dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 108 x 54.8 cm
On a cliff with shoots of bamboo sits the white-robed Kuan-yin bodhisattva with a dragon-lady attendant behind. In Kuan-yin's hand is the bottle of purification, emanating from which is a wisp of a cloud. On it stands Sudhana, the Child of Virtuous Wealth, bending forward in respect.
In Journey to the West, Kuan-yin plays a key role and function in the story. From subjugating the Monkey King to locating the monk searching for sutras, Kuan-yin appears throughout the novel, also creating obstacles to test Ch'an (Zen) thought and converting demons to assist in the journey west.
In chapters 24 to 26, for example, the Monkey King stole ginseng fruit of Chen Yüan-hsien (Guarding the First Immortal) and knocked over the tree. Unable to free himself, he depended on the elixir of willow branch dew in Kuan-yin's bottle of purification to save the tree and get himself out of trouble. Chapters 40 to 42 also narrate how the T'ang Monk (Tripitaka) and company were tricked by Crimson Child when passing by the Cave of Fire and Clouds. Also known as the Great Sagacious King Child, he is the son of King Bull Demon and Maiden Net Goblin. When he used wheels of flame and spitfire to attack the Monkey King and capture Tripitaka,
the Monkey King
sought Kuan-yin for help. Kuan-yin convinced the boy to gave up his evil ways, and he became the Golden Child by Kuan-yin, hence the origin of the story of Sudhana.