Kuan-Yin was the ethnic Chinese goddess of wealth and compassion. She was adopted into Buddhism, and she became a Bodhisattva (or Buddha's helper) of compassion.
I'd like to note one story about Kuan-Yin concerning Miao Shan, a legendary princess and incarnation of Kuan-Yin.
A long time ago, a Chinese king, Miao Chuang Yen, asked his daughter Miao Shan to marry a wealthy man. She told him that she would obey his command, as long as the marriage eased three misfortunes. The king asked his daughter what the three misfortunes were. The first misfortune was aging, the second illness, and the third death. If the marriage could not ease any of the above, then she would rather retire to a life of religion forever. When her father asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all of these. Her father grew angry as he wanted her to marry a person of power and wealth, not a healer. He forced her into hard labor and reduced her food and drink, but Miao Shan didn't stop. Every day she begged to be able to enter a temple and become a nun instead of marrying. Her father eventually allowed her to work in the temple, but asked the monks to give her the toughest chores in order to discourage her. The monks forced Miao Shan to work all day and all night in order to finish her work. However, she was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Now struck with fear, her father ordered her to be put to death. Miao Shan allowed herself to die at the hand of the executioner. According to this legend, as the executioner tried to carry out her father's orders, his axe shattered into a thousand pieces. He then tried a sword which likewise shattered. He tried to shoot Miao Shan down with arrows but they all veered off. Finally, in desperation, he used his hands. Miao Shan, realizing the fate that the executioner would meet at her father's hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless, so she descended into one of the levels of hell. While there, she witnessed first-hand the suffering and horrors that the beings there must endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, that level of hell became a paradise. It is said that Yanluo, King of Hell, sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm, and that upon her return to the afterlife she appeared on Fragrant Mountain (heaven). Soon, Miao Chuang Yen, Miao Shan's father, fell ill with jaundice. No physician was able to cure him. Then a monk appeared saying that the jaundice could be cured by making a medicine out of the arm and eye of one without anger. The monk further suggested that such a person could be found on Fragrant Mountain. When asked, Miao Shan willingly offered up her eyes and arms. Miao Chuang Yen was cured of his illness and went to the Fragrant Mountain to give thanks to the person. When he discovered that his own daughter had made the sacrifice, he begged for forgiveness. The story concludes with Miao Shan being transformed into the goddess she was born from, Kuan-Yin, and the king, queen and her two sisters building a temple on the mountain for her. She began her journey to heaven and was about to cross over into heaven when she heard a cry of suffering from the world below. She turned around and saw the massive suffering endured by the people of the world. Filled with compassion, she returned to Earth, never to leave until all suffering has ended.
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