Maria Kannon

Maria Kannon (Edo period, c. 1714). Found hidden inside a statue of Amida Buddha. Treasure of Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture. Image from The A to Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Sculpture & Art via This J-Site.

For most Japanese of this period of history, this statue would have depicted Kannon – otherwise known as Guanyin, or Kwannon, or, in male form, Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion. But for the Kakure Kirishitan, the Hidden Christians who were attempting secretly to preserve their banned faith in the face of persecution, exile, torture, and death, the statue would, in private, have represented the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus.

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