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There are many manifestations of Kuan Yin - she is known to be a shape shifter with omnipresent energy and is sometimes represented as the 1000 armed Kuan Yin, because she can protect so many people at one time. She's the patron saint of women, fishermen, sailors, merchants, craftsmen and children among many others.
In Japan she's known as Kannon Sama. There she is primarily represented holding a willow branch in one hand and a vase in the other. She dips the willow branch into the water and uses it to sprinkle the divine nectar of life. Symbolically this contains the nectar of compassion and wisdom.
The other command Chinese belief is she was a Princess. As the Princess Miao Shan, she denounced her position, much like the Buddha, and refused to marry when her father the king requested her to. She only wanted a spiritual existence. She was banished, but later sacrificed her arms and her eyes so that her father could be healed. When she transformed into a bodhisattva, she refused to go to the heaven and instead went to the hell realms where everything was made beautiful by her presence. The ruler of the hell realms requested she leave, so she ascended up to the human realm and took the bodhisattva vow that she would not rest until everyone was freed from suffering.
Legend has it that Kuan Yin was born on February 19th of the lunar calendar, (March 23rd) achieved enlightenment on June 19th (July 19th) and achieved nirvana on September 19th (November 14th). On such dates, pilgrims from all over the world congregate at Putuoshan to pay homage to the Goddess.
Putuoshan is a small island off the eastern coast of China. The island has about 3000 residents and about a third of these are monks. It's possible to walk from one end to the other in an hour or two but you could also spend days here relaxing and visiting some of the many temples.
In 916 AD a Japanese monk tried to take a statue of the Mercy Buddha Kuan Yin from the China mainland back to Japan. They got as far as Putuoshan where fierce storms prevented them from going any further. Kuan Yin came to the monk in a dream and told him that if he would leave her here on Putuoshan, she would let him return home. The monk agreed and the weather cleared up and Putuoshan has been her home since then.