Bodhisattvas are enlightened Buddhist beings who have delayed entering Nirvana in order to aid other sentient beings. The Chinese name Guanyin itself means “One who heeds the cries (of others).” Known as Avalokite?vara in Sanskrit, Guanyin was first worshipped in India and subsequently introduced into China. As is customary, Guanyin is clad in the sumptuous garb of an Indian prince. This statue was once displayed as an icon in a Buddhist temple, and it seems fitting that Mrs. Gardner placed it over the doorway leading to her private chamber for meditation, which was filled with Buddhist icons and other Asian objects.
Source: Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 183.