Avalokiteshvara Triad

Cave 9, Tianlongshan Grottoes, Shanxi

Multistoried Cave 9 contains, on the ground floor, a triad with Avalokiteshvara, Wenshu (Manjusri), and Puxian (Samantabhadra). Behind this triad, and occupying two further stories, is a colossal sculpture of Maitreya (later page). The Tang dynasty cave dates to the reign of Wu Zetian, the patroness of Longmen.

Avalokiteshvara is carved with 10 subsidiary heads (for a total of 11, including the main head), symbolizing the all-seeing nature of this bodhisattva. The meaning of the triad, with Manjusri and Samantabhadra, is that compassion (Avalokiteshvara) consists of wisdom (Manjusri) in practice (Samantabhadra).