Kuan Yin

Kuan Yin declared women the spiritual equals to men.

One who hears the cries of the world – the living expression of loving compassion; the one who will come to your aid; the one who offers a caring aspect to the otherwise somewhat remote world with its scales of merit and demerit, its hells and rebirths, its retributions and consequences in life and beyond. He will break the cycle of rebirth, of punishment and of retribution.

As early as the 5th century, Kuan Shih Yin was always depicted as a man, albeit one very slight and graceful of form and visage. Many of the forms of Kuan Yin were clearly male, though somewhat androgynous. In all the early translations of the Lotus Sutra, Kuan Shih Yin is indisputably male. While it is recognized within the text that he is capable of taking a female form, this is not considered his main form. His is clearly male in the prodigious records of Hsuan Tsang (c 596-664) throughout China and India and in such texts as the Cheng Ming Chin, which dates to the end of the 17th century. He is also clearly male in the Suragama Sutra which was first produced in AD 705 in Chinese.

By the mid to late 9th century, Kuan Yin was now usually considered and depicted as female. So, something happened during that time to turn Kuan Yin from a male into a female figure. The female Kuan Yin’s roots lie not in the heartlands of historic China but on the northwest frontier, on the Silk Road. This is where numerous cultures met and interacted. The male cult of Kuan Yin had already penetrated as a result of the dissemination of the Lotus Sutra, but the distinctive female forms only began to fan out extensively from the northwest in the ninth to 20th century. Man took it upon themselves to change Kuan Yin from a male to female form – probably due to an early case of homophobia.

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