Delivering the Message: Kaua‘i resident hosts Kwan Yin exhibit

WAILUA — When documentary filmmaker Kate Sample dislocated her knee a few years ago, she turned to the deity of compassion found in many Asian cultures.

“I wanted a Kwan Yin (statue) I could meditate on for healing,” Sample said.

What started as a personal interest has grown into a passion for the deity’s message and history — as well as art dedicated to her. Sample has created an exhibit dedicated entirely to statues and representations of the deity, which is currently showing on Kaua‘i.

Kwan Yin appears in many Eastern religions and is known for her healing energy. She is called Avalokiteswara or Chenrezig in Tibet, Guan Yin or Quan Yin in China, Kannon in Japan, and Tara in India and Tibet. But regardless of the spelling, her name shares a similar meaning: She who listens to the cries of the world.

Sample’s collection of Kwan Yin artwork features 54 pieces, as well as other items she collected while traveling in China. Sample said it was there that the idea of an exhibit began to take shape, as she was amazed at how ubiquitous Kwan Yin’s presence was in the culture.

“In China, every house has a Kwan Yin and every person knows her prayer,” Sample said.

During her extended visit, she began to collect Kwan Yin artwork to take back to friends. “I wanted to bring some home to share with friends and I just kind of got carried away,” she said.

Since returning from the 2006 trip, Sample has shown her collection on Maui, O‘ahu and the Big Island, and she is now offering it on Kaua‘i.

All the items on display are for sale, and pieces range from $5 pendants to $2,000 statues. But you don’t have to buy to look, Sample said. The exhibit is by appointment during the week so she has time to answer questions and offer a history of the pieces and Kwan Yin. Some people want to look and learn, others come to buy a Kwan Yin, and still others visit the collection to meditate, she said.

“I’m trying to make it more like a museum-type experience,” she said.

But as the items in the collection find new homes, Sample has to constantly look for new Kwan Yins. She maintains relationships with vendors abroad who send her new items, and she also sources a lot of art from eBay.

When selecting a new statue, Sample looks first at the facial expression for a certain serenity and life-like quality. She is also concerned with the craftsmanship and the detail of the piece.

According to Sample’s Web site, Kwan Yin appears in many forms, predominantly female, in white robes, holding a white lotus flower and pouring healing waters from a vase. She is also often depicted sitting on a lotus in a meditative pose practicing mudras, or hand gestures.

On why the deity has such an appeal for those who know her, Sample said, “People are drawn to Kwan Yin who need either healing or to find some kind of inner peace.”

The current collection is being shown at a Wailua home on Hono Ohala Place by appointment through Dec. 9.

There will be an open house from noon to 5 p.m. the next two weekends, Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9. Private viewings during the week can be arranged by calling 823-8820. For more information, visit

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or


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