In Chinese 'Bodhisattva' is usually referred to by the Chinese word pusa. In Buddhism a 'Bodhisattva' is a potential Buddha, or someone who has achieved perfect enlightenment and is entitled to enter directly into 'Nirvana', but who renounces this in order first to bring salvation to all suffering mankind. Such figures appear alone, or in pairs in support of a Buddha.
Unlike the Buddha, who is always a simple figure without adornment, Bodhisattvas are crowned and loaded with jewels. The four best-known Bodhisattvas are
- Guanyin Pusa (Avalokitesvara or the 'Goddess of Mercy'),
- Wenshu (Manjusri or the 'Bodhisattva of Wisdom'). He has five hair buns on his head, have a sword in his hand, and is often shown riding a lion representing wisdom, power and vigour.
- Puxian (Samantabhadra or the 'Bodhisattva of Universal Benevolence'). Saves the souls of the dead, stands side by side with Wenshu and is shown riding a white elephant.
- Dizang (Kistigarbha). After the death of Sakyamuni, Dizang was the Bodhisattva that saved all the living creatures in Heaven and in Hell. Dizang gained enlightenment on Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province and, several decades later he entered Nirvana.