Click to enlargeKuan Yin

In Taoism and Buddhism, Kuan Yin is the Bodhisattva or Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Her name means "one who hears the cries of the world and comes."

Before becoming Kuan Yin, the goddess's earthly name was Princess Miao Shan, or Wondrously Kind One. She was one of three daughters born around 2590 BC to a king with no male heir. The king decreed that his daughters must marry and give him grandsons to perpetuate his dynasty.

Two of the girls obeyed. Miao Shan, however, begged to enter a convent instead. She wanted a life of prayer and contemplation. Thinking she would soon tire of monastic existence, the king agreed. But the princess loved her austere life, and refused to return to marriage and a life of luxury. Threats and punishments failed to sway her. The enraged king ordered her beheaded so her example of disobedience wouldn't lead other girls astray.

At the moment of execution, a gigantic tiger bounded forth and bore the fainting princess away to safety in the hills. From her hillside cave, Miao Shan descended into Hell, where she procured the release of its wretched inhabitants. For this feat, the princess was honored by Buddha himself, and was taken to the island of Potala, where her works of mercy and contemplation completed her transformation into the goddess Kuan Yin.

She rescued the son of the Dragon King, who had been caught by fishermen while roaming the Earth disguised as a fish. The grateful Dragon King sent Kuan Yin a beautiful jewel, carried by his granddaughter, the Dragon Maiden. Lung Nu so adored the lovely and virtuous goddess that she remained with her always. Kuan Yin is the incarnation of mercy and compassion. In a world beset by evil, the Merciful One hears every cry. All you need do is call her name. They say her voice is heard in the sound of running water in streams, lotus pools, and the sea. You may hear her singing in the chime of brass bells, or the call of the wind. (Story on back of card.)

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