English | Vietnamese

Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

by Derek Lin


There is a phenomenon sweeping through Asia which is still relatively unknown in the West. We were privileged to see it in our trip to Taiwan. It is a stunning stage performance called Thousand-Hand Guan Yin.

About Guan Yin

Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy. Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. Guan means to observe, watch, or monitor; Shi means the world; Yin means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who watches for, and responds to, the people in the world who cry out for help.

Bodhi means wisdom or enlightenment; sattva means being or essence. Put the two together and you get bodhisattva, a being who is enlightened and ready to transcend the cycles of birth and death, but chooses to return to the material world in order to help other people reach the same level of enlightenment. This is the ultimate demonstration of pure compassion.

The thousand hands of this bodhisattva represent Guan Yin's many abilities to render assistance. There are a thousand eyes on these hands which give Guan Yin great powers to observe the world. Guan Yin also has many faces so she can become who people need her to be, not necessarily herself, because her help is given in a way that is literally selfless.

Due to the widespread influence of Chinese culture, Guan Yin has become arguably the most popular and well-known bodhisattva in the world. This can sometimes lead to confusion as people erroneously equate Guan Yin with bodhisattva. For instance, quite a few people have already mistranslated the Chinese name of the performance to Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva.

Also, the deification of Guan Yin can lead to a misconception at a fundamental level. A bodhisattva is not a deity but a human being - a spiritually advanced human being. Although Guan Yin is depicted as a beautiful Asian woman, anyone can be a bodhisattva regardless of appearance, race and gender. Whenever you act in accordance with a natural impulse of total compassion, you have taken another step toward becoming a bodhisattva yourself.

About the Performance

The most incredible thing about the performance is that all the dancers are deaf. They are members of the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe. None of them can hear the music - this makes their choreography a truly amazing achievement. The difficulties and challenges they encountered in training are beyond imagining.

If you enjoy this extraordinary display of beauty and grace, please share it with your friends and loved ones. Send them a message about this web site so they can see for themselves. Also, please consider supporting the China Disabled People's Performance Art Troupe by purchasing their DVD when it becomes available. We can all use a little more compassion and kindness in the world, that's for sure!

Below is a high-resolution (1280 x 1024) wallpaper for your desktop. You'll want to click on it to see the full version, and then right-click on it to either save it or select "Set as Background."

The ultimate message of this performance can be summed up in the following words from Zhang Jigang, the choreographer who put it all together:

As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others