Details of the Water-Moon Avalokiteśvara: the Kundika Ewer and Willow Branch

On the right side of the Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva is a kundika ewer outlined in black and gold on a transparent base. A kundika ewer containing purified water invariably appears besides the bodhisattva in Goryeo Water-Moon Avalokiteśvara paintings. The kundika ewer was originally used by Indian monks to hold water, but its meaning and use expanded. It became a Buddhist ritual vessel in the early 5th century when the stories of Avalokiteśvara healing people, which appeared in the Qing guanshiyin jing sutra became popular in China.  



Bronze Kundika Ewer with Inlaid Silver Landscape Design (靑銅銀入絲蒲柳水禽文淨甁), Goryeo, 12th century, bronze, height 37.5 cm. National Museum of Korea. ©National Museum of Korea
Bronze Kundika Ewer with Inlaid Silver Landscape Design (靑銅銀入絲蒲柳水禽文淨甁), Goryeo, 12th century, bronze, height 37.5 cm. National Museum of Korea. ©National Museum of Korea

According to this sutra, Avalokiteśvara healed people’s ailments after receiving offerings of willow branches and purified water. Moreover, kundika-style ewers were also used in daily life. According to the Goryeo do gyeong (高麗圖經), kundika-shaped ewers were widely used by a wide range of people from aristocrats to those who lived in ordinary humble homes.

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