Quan Yin is regarded as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A bodhisattva is a spiritually enlightened human being who renounces the eternal bliss of Nirvana in order to bring relief to those suffering on earth. There are many accounts of Quan Yin's life that describe how she became one of the most beloved deities in Buddhism. According to legend, she was a follower of Buddha, and after much sacrifice and devotion to the spiritual path, she earned her entry to heaven. As she was about to enter paradise, the cries of the world reached her ears. Her heart was filled with unconditional love and – instead of entering Nirvana – she chose to stay on earth. As a matter of fact, her name means "the one who hears the sounds of the world." Her act of compassion installed her as a Buddhist savior.
Chi-Jen Liu offers his reverence to Quan Yin in his painting, "Quan Yin Protects You." His depiction of her follows Buddhist tradition. Quan Yin pours holy water from a slender vase (blessing all forms of life with health and peace), and her other hand is positioned with tips of the thumb and middle finger meeting to create the wisdom mudra (awakening all to higher awareness). The dragon upon which she stands symbolizes power and divine guidance (see Cloud Series).
Quan Yin is commonly depicted in classic Buddhist art as having a thousand arms with an eye on each hand. This illustrates the hundreds of ways she watches and blesses the world. In Chi-Jen Liu's piece, mantra charms emanate from Quan Yin in all directions – left, right, above, below – to evoke the concept of her multiple arms of assistance that respond to the cries on earth. The artist selected charms that express her mercy and generosity, such as healing and protection for body and mind, financial success and harmonious relationships, as well as peace and longevity. These ancient Taoist diagrams attract and transmit specific vibrations in the universe which we cannot see. It is not unlike a radio antenna receiving or broadcasting invisible sound waves hidden in the ether.
The pink and golden sphere behind Quan Yin is her loving and pure aura of light. Her image is suspended in a watery blue background. It represents both the sky and sea, and symbolizes her expansive, all-embracing compassion for all.