Ly Son’s Goddess of Compassion

Quan Am, the goddess of compassion, overlooks the South China Sea.

Ly Son Island exploded in a fiery creation, erupting out of the South China Sea 25-30 million years ago. Today, molded gently into the cliffs of one of Ly Son Island’s craters, stands a majestic white statue of a woman whose face shows the exact opposite of such a violent beginning.

She is Quan Am, the bodhisattva of compassion. Throughout Vietnam, the massive statue is found in Buddhist pagodas, home altars, along mountainsides and jutting from coastal peninsulas. It stands serenely overlooking a world that is often much less peaceful. Buddhists look to this goddess of mercy for guidance, fertility, and protection.

There are many more famous Quan Am statues throughout Vietnam (and Asia). But our focus is Ly Son Island. 

A great setting for a suspense novel!

I can picture this location as a setting for a future suspense series. It’s part of a proposed UNESCO geopark that will build tourism, and add protections for local culture and nature. Three larger volcanos and two smaller ones exploded, creating a single island. Thriving reefs wrap around the land as if they were protective arms. Besides being picturesque, Ly Son juts out of the sea near a conflict zone with China, a country desperate for natural resources. The South China Sea has long had contested by adjacent countries.  (Check out a map to see how far the Paracel Islands are from China, and how near the Vietnamese coast!)

Vietnamese annually celebrate the Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers, who rowed boats to the Paracel Islands. There, they patriots planted sovereign landmarks and defended the “motherland.”

One Ly Son fisherman said that Chinese military ships often confront the island’s fishing fleet. Islanders suspect strangers are buying Ly Son homes, possibly fronts for Chinese infiltrators. Quang Ngai Province, which includes Ly Son, runs along Vietnam’s central coast, just south of Danang. If China wanted to cut Vietnam in half to conquer its feisty neighbor, Ly Son is a potential first step… Or so goes the wandering minds of native fishermen waiting for smoother seas, and the overactive imaginations of fiction writers looking for stories.

Compassion and Mercy are universal needs

But, Quan Am watches over everything. Often depicted as a gentle woman holding a willow branch representing healing, or a vase turned upside down representing cleansing and purification, she is immensely popular for good reason throughout the Buddhist world. Eight of the 15 largest Buddhist statues in the world are of this compassionate figure.

Everywhere in the world, humans are desperately seeking mercy and compassion. In the Christian faith, there is a living God, Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate expression of mercy and love. Such a hope is a universal need.

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Scott Douglas Martell is a writer, teacher and coach. His most recent novel is The Hyena Man, an African romantic suspense. His blogs often focus on Ethiopia and Vietnam, world traveling, and counseling for a more joyful life, with topics such as brain health and spiritual awareness.

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