Avalokitesvara, also known as Bu Ken Qu Guan Yin (literally "the Guanyin who refuses to leave"), is a 2013 Chinese religious film based on a legend about how Mount Putuo in China's Zhejiang Province became known as the bodhimaṇḍa of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, who is better known in Chinese as "Guanyin". The film was directed by Zhang Xin, and starred Li Chun, Nie Yuan, Nakaizumi Hideo, Siqin Gaowa, Nakano Ryoko, and Mou Fengbin in the leading roles. It was shown at the 37th Montreal World Film Festival in 2013 and was named one of the four World Greats.
The film is set in China during the reign of Emperor Wuzong of the Tang dynasty. The prince Li Yi, a relative of the emperor, has been sickly since childhood. His mother, Lady Zheng, commissions Yu Xiufeng, a craftsman from Mount Meicen (Mount Putuo), to create a porcelain figurine of Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin) so that she can pray to the bodhisattva to bless her son with good health. On the day the figurine is completed, Yu and his grandson, Haisheng, discover a baby girl in a lotus pond. Yu adopts the baby girl, who is named "Lianmei" ("Lotus Sister"). She is believed to be an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara. The figurine is taken to Mount Wutai and enshrined in a Buddhist temple there.
In 845 CE, Emperor Wuzong orders the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution because he feels that Buddhism is corrupting the masses. He also senses that Li Yi is a growing threat to him, so he dispatches General Yuchi to assassinate the prince. At the same time, Reverend Wuchen asks Yu Xiufeng to collect the figurine from Mount Wutai and hide it at Mount Meicen. During the journey, Yu and his grandchildren meet Hui'e, a Japanese Buddhist monk sent by Empress Tachibana to find and bring the figurine to Japan. Yuchi's subordinate, Sima, has been secretly tasked with protecting Li Yi, so he saves the prince when Yuchi is about to kill him. Sima wants to kill Yuchi after defeating him in a duel, but Lianmei stops him and asks him to spare Yuchi. Li Yi and Sima then follow Yu, Lianmei and Haisheng back to Mount Meicen, bringing along the figurine with them. Hui'e finds out later and makes his way to Mount Meicen too.
Yuchi tracks down Li Yi with the help of Song, the governor of Mingzhou (modern Ningbo). To buy time for Li Yi and Sima to escape, Lianmei and Haisheng disguise themselves to divert the pursuers' attention away, while Yu stays behind to distract the governor. The governor kills Yu when he refuses to reveal Li Yi's whereabouts, while Yuchi goes after Lianmei and Haisheng – only to find out that he has been tricked. In the meantime, Hui'e finds the figurine and tries to sneak away with it. When Haisheng and Lianmei return home, they are horrified to see their grandfather dead. Haisheng sees Hui'e fleeing and immediately suspects that Hui'e killed his grandfather and stole the figurine, so he chases Hui'e, catches up with him, and starts beating him. Lianmei stops Haisheng and tells him she believes Hui'e when he claims he is innocent. However, she refuses to let Hui'e take the figurine with him. Hui'e feels so ashamed of himself that he gives up and returns to Japan.
Lianmei and Haisheng are captured later at a roadblock in Mingzhou by Governor Song, who seizes the figurine from them. The governor then tries to bribe Yuchi to help him cover up for his failure to hunt down Li Yi, but Yuchi refuses and accuses him of corruption. Meanwhile, Haisheng escapes from the prison and drags Lianmei along with him. Yuchi is furious when he learns of their escape and orders the other prisoners to be executed. However, Lianmei succeeds in convincing Haisheng to go back to the prison with her because she knows what would happen if they escaped. Yuchi is so impressed by Lianmei's act of sacrifice that he spares the prisoners.
Yuchi sets a trap to lure Li Yi out of hiding. He announces that Lianmei and Haisheng will be executed for helping a fugitive escape, and predicts that Li Yi will come to save them. As expected, Li Yi appears and turns himself in to Yuchi in exchange for Lianmei and Haisheng's release. However, Sima also shows up and fights with Yuchi and his soldiers to save Li Yi. Just then, a messenger arrives with an imperial edict announcing that Emperor Wuzong is dead and that Li Yi will succeed him. Yuchi commits suicide in shame for failing to complete his mission. Li Yi returns to the palace to be crowned as the new emperor, while Lianmei and Haisheng bring the figurine back to Mount Wutai.
Hui'e travels to China again later to ask for the figurine. Reverend Wuchen initially rejects his request. However, Hui'e eventually manages to convince everyone of his sincerity by kneeling outside the temple for several days, so Wuchen allows him to bring the figurine to Japan. When Hui'e's ship sails past Mount Meicen, Lianmei rows towards the ship on a raft because she cannot bear to see the figurine leave. A fierce storm suddenly breaks out and causes the figurine to be cast overboard. When the storm has subsided, Hui'e is deeply saddened to learn that Lianmei and the figurine are lost at sea. Just then, lotuses appear all over the water surface. Hui'e sees a vision of Lianmei as Avalokiteśvara on Mount Meicen, and realises that he is not destined to bring the figurine back to Japan. However, he can bring back the virtues embodied by the bodhisattva – such as compassion and mercy – and impart them to his people.Li Chun as Lianmei, the human incarnation of Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin).
Nie Yuan as Li Yi, a prince and relative of Emperor Wuzong. He becomes the new Emperor after Emperor Wuzong's death.
Nakaizumi Hideo as Hui'e, a Japanese Buddhist monk tasked with finding the Guanyin figurine and bringing it back to Japan.
Siqin Gaowa as Lady Zheng, Li Yi's mother.
Nakano Ryoko as Empress Tachibana, the Empress of Japan.
Mou Fengbin as General Yuchi, a general sent by Emperor Wuzong to assassinate Li Yi.
Wang Zengqi as Haisheng, Yu Xiufeng's grandson.
Niu Ben as Yu Xiufeng, a craftsman who created the porcelain figurine. He adopts Lianmei as his granddaughter.
Sang Weilin as General Sima, a general secretly tasked by Lady Zheng to protect Li Yi.
Kuroki Shinji as Aoki, a Japanese Buddhist monk who follows Hui'e to ask for the figurine.
Fang Xinmin as Reverend Wuchen, the abbot of the Buddhist temple on Mount Wutai.
Zhang Shengbao as Governor Song, the governor of Mingzhou (modern Ningbo).
Ying Lizhi as Eunuch Ma, a eunuch who serves Emperor Wuzong.
Wang Jianguo as a fisherman
Avalokitesvara was approved by China's State Administration for Religious Affairs and State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television before it starting filming on 6 June 2012 at Mount Putuo, Zhejiang Province. It opened in Chinese theatres on 26 July 2013.
Venerable Master Yicheng, a former President of the Buddhist Association of China, served as principal consultant for the film.
Avalokitesvara was shown at the 37th Montreal World Film Festival in 2013. It was named one of the World Greats along with Mitani Kōki's The Kiyosu Conference, Wang Jing's Fall of Ming, and Ren Pengyuan's The Deadly Bullet.