The Buddha, even in masculine form, exhibits feminine delicacy, especially in the act of intense contemplation. At the Ryōzen Kannon Temple in Kyoto, his enormous figure of bone-white concrete looms at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains. It is a memorial to the dead of the Pacific War, and the Buddha is the Lord Who Looks Down on the lamentations of those who suffer. 

Ryōzen Kannon Temple, Kyoto (2015)
Ryōzen Kannon Temple, Kyoto (2015)

He is presented as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara: he who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He sits serene in lotus position, but in his compassion defers his own enlightenment. In East Asia, his rounded face signals a maternal benevolence, and the Japanese Kannon or Kanzeon could indeed be a female figure except for the breasts missing or lost in the folds of her shawl.

Indeed, the Chinese Guanyin conflates the Buddha with the beloved Goddess of Mercy, and they become one and interchangeable. His sex retreats to a recessive trait, felicitous to compassion, which, like the suffering it attends to, transcends gender.

(Kyoto, 2015 – Wiesbaden, 2017)


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