Avalokiteshvara is one of several Buddhas worshipped in Asian Buddhism.

Statue of Avalokiteshvara at the Bach Ma National Park in HueStatue of Avalokiteshvara at the Bach Ma National Park in Hue | photo: Frank Fox (cc-by-sa)

On my travels in Asia, I encounter a broad variety of images and statues of holy entities. Similar to Europe, where you have the old gods of Greece, Rome, the Germanic peoples and the Celts, later on influenced by Middle Eastern religions like Islam or Christianity. We even have rare images of Mithras, Isis and other interesting people.

Statue of Avalokiteshvara at Linh Phuoc Pagoda in Da LatStatue of Avalokiteshvara at Linh Phuoc Pagoda in Da Lat | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

In Asia however, I need some research to identify religious icons. Meanwhile I understand some cultural aspects, but I always stumble upon new things. This icon here I encountered at a shrine in the marble mountains of Da Nang, Vietnam. It depicts the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

AvalokiteshvaraAvalokiteshvara | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

Bodhisattva are former humans, who reached enlightenment. But instead of entering the last phase and leaving earth, they decide to remain here and help others to reach enlightenment as well. Now this explanation is not 100% correct, but kinda sufficient for our current purpose here.

In Tantric Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara has 11 faces and thousand arms, which let it rain flowers or have other specialised purposes.

Colourful Mosaic At Linh Phuoc Pagoda in Da LatColourful Mosaic At Linh Phuoc Pagoda in Da Lat | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

The legend of Avalokiteshvara

The legend tells us of the prince, who vowed to help all living beings to free themselves from the circle of constant rebirth, otherwise he would shatter to pieces.

Flower Covered Avalokiteshvara StatueFlower Covered Avalokiteshvara Statue | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

He tirelessly walked the planes and aided humans, animals and demons alike - all suffering beings - on their path to enlightenment. One day he looked over his shoulder behind him and he saw, that every being he saved, got replaced by countless other, suffering entities.

For a short while, he doubted his ability to fulfil his vows. Thus he shattered in a thousand pieces.

From all directions, Buddhas came running, to help the helper and put his pieces back together. Amitabha, the Buddha of discerning wisdom, gave Avalokiteshvara 11 faces and a thousand arms, so he could better fulfil his vows to help the world.


The 1000 arms symbolise the mercy and helpfulness of 1000 Buddhas, who will appear during the fortunate kalpa (an age in Buddhist mythology). In Tibetan culture, the Nyungne-Ritual, the ritual of the 11-headed Bodhisattva is of great importance.

This ritual has been spread by the nun Palmo during the 10th century. It is said, that it has strong healing powers.

More information

More Things To Do

One Day Mekong Delta TourOne Day Mekong Delta Tour
I got invited to join a one day private tour into the Mekong Delta. It was a very nice and informative tour and I enjoyed it a lot.
Phu Quoc Water SportsPhu Quoc Water Sports
Holidays on a tropical island would be odd without the opportunity to do sports. Water sports. Here is a selection of stuff that you can try on Phu Quoc.
Shopping on Phu QuocShopping on Phu Quoc
You can get some really interesting products from Phu Quoc, mainly pepper, pearls and fish sauce. There are other things too, just check out the variety of shopping opportunities on the island.
Phu Quoc Fishing ToursPhu Quoc Fishing Tours
Join a fishing tour for a relaxed afternoon and a hearty meal.
Phu QuocPhu Quoc
Phu Quoc is the pearl island of Vietnam and developing as fast as any other prime tourist location in Southeast Asia.
Getting Around On Phu Quoc IslandGetting Around On Phu Quoc Island
There are several methods to be mobile on Phu Quoc Island. Just check out our description and pick what you prefer.
Phu Quoc National Park & Jungle TrailsPhu Quoc National Park & Jungle Trails
One great way to experience the pristine wilderness of Phu Quoc Island is a walk along the jungle trails near Ganh Dau up at the northwestern tip.