The two deities look like humans, excepted that they are often larger than life and never stop to express perfection, for Buddha, and serene compassion, for Guanyin. Guanyin helps the mortals to overcome their shyness in order to achieve the highest level of wisdom that they can reach.
The imperial attitude varies. Under the Song, Buddhism is not dominant. It is contested by the Confucians and competes with Taoism. At this time of strong political power, the Chinese are wary against this foreign religion imported from India.
The large wooden statues maintain very marked Hindu features in opposition to Chinese traditions, such as the abundance of carved jewelry, the robe revealing the shape of the body and the high chignon.
A Song time specimen in the Victoria and Albert Museum has been studied in details. It consists of an assembly of small blocks of wood held together by pegs and dowels. The painted surface was subject to wear and was reworked over the centuries. The analysis of the statue revealed the realistic intention of the original layer with flesh color, black hair and a polychrome dress patterned with gilding. The Ming period layers will extend the gilding.
These Song statues are sharply carved. A seated Guanyin with one hanging leg was sold for € 9M including premium by Christie's on December 19, 2012. The pre sale lower estimate of € 200K expressed a posteriori the difficulty of predicting the price of such a scarce piece but this result can now be used as a reference.
On December 2 in Hong Kong, Christie's sells a wooden Guanyin sitting in the lotus position, 117 cm high, lot 2905 estimated HK $ 35M. The photo below, where the deity welcomes a visitor, clearly demonstrates the benevolent and however authoritarian presence that the anonymous artist had wanted to express ten to eight centuries ago.