Sunday, September 14, 2014
I chanced upon a superb movie recently. Avolokitisvara (China, 2013) is a somewhat historical story that takes us back into the 9th century in China during the Tang Dynasty. We follow several parallel stories which intersect several times over the 100 or so minutes of the film. The political story is built on the usual court plotting and scheming of the Emperor and his inner circle. The main character is the Princeling, the Emperor’s illegitimate son who, by chance, is also the first in line for the throne. He is hiding out, pretending to be retarded, but has his own circle of supporters.
As the film opens, he is fleeing to a Buddhist temple, Mount Wutai. Near that same temple a few decades earlier, a poor but gifted rural potter created the unique green porcelain figure of Kwan Shih Yin (aka Avolokitisvara, Kannon, etc.). The day it is pulled from the kiln a baby appears floating in a basket on a lotus pond. She is named Little Lotus and adopted by the potter. As she ages, she and her older brother become living models of compassion. Little Lotus and her brother are at the temple when the Princeling seeks refuge there. If that isn’t enough, a Japanese monk named Hui-e has arrived from japan on a mission to retrieve the statue for the Japanese Buddhist sangha. Apparently his Queen believes it will bring the Japanese people together.
Much of the detail is based on historical events, the story itself is touching. It concludes with connecting the story with the actual Mount Putuo, a national treasure of Buddhism in China.
You can watch this movie, with English subtitles at this location:
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu