Quan Yin, also known as Kwan Yin or Quan Shi Yin is the Goddess of compassion in Indian Buddhism and was introduced to China during the third century. Quan Yin Goddess means to look into deeply (Quan) Shi means people of the world, and Yin means to cry. By looking simply at her name, we know that Quan Yin looks deeply into the world of mankind and feels compassion so deep for their suffering that she cries.
Scholars of Buddhism believe that translator and Buddhist monk Kumarajiva was the first man to write about Kwan Yin while studying the Chinese translation of Lotus Sutra as early as 406 A.D. There are thirty-three appearances of the bodhisattva, or Gods and Goddesses in the translation, of which seven are female, since then Buddhists associate the number thirty-three with Kwan Yin. By the ninth century, a statue of the weeping and beautiful Goddess was in every monastery in China.
Quan Yin is also believed to have been at one time a human, taking the form of the Chinese princess and Buddhist saint Miao Shan around 700 B.C. she lived off the coast of Chekiang for nine years where she is credited with saving the lives of sailors and healing them after shipwrecks. The people of P’u-t’o Island built temples numbering in the hundreds and over a thousand monks lived there, people came from all over China, Tibet, and Mongolia for the services and lore developed wherein Quan Yin revealed herself to the faithful and performed many miracles in one of the many caves on the island.
The Goddess is also part of a triad in Buddhism, in the center is the boundless light of Buddha, with Mahasthamaprapata on his right; the embodiment of power and strength. Kwan Yin sits at his left as a symbol of endless mercy and compassion.
Quan Yin statues and art depict the Goddess as a slender woman in flowing white robes carrying the symbolic flower of purity, the lotus. Small statues can still be seen today all over the world of the little goddess sitting cross-legged with a lotus flower bowl in which to catch water, intended for the thirsty. Sometimes she is pictured carrying a child or sitting with children at her feet, and along with being the goddess of mercy, compassion, and of sailors wrecked at sea, Quan Yin has also been compared to the Western Symbol of the mother virgin Mary.