Film History and Meaning : Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

My wife and I have begun recording and watching one old 30's 40's or 50's old movies each night. While doing this "Turner Classic Movie marathon" we began to notice that many movies have statues of Quan Yin in them. We finally began to keep track of all the Quan Yin sightings in old movies. Please realize that it was only very recently that we actually began tracking the Quan Yin statues, and there are many other previous sightings that we failed to record.

1.) In "DOA" and "The Big Sleep," and both had Quan Yin statues in them.

2.) In "The Big Sleep" the statue is predominantly and quite obviously displayed. What is up with this? Is there some "inside movie people meaning" to this. It clearly cannot be coincidence.

3.) In Ernst Lubitsch's 1943 "Haven Can Wait,"  Quan Yin was there again. This time she was there three times, in three different statues of three different sizes. The statue appears early in the movie as a 1 foot high statue in the library. Later, the library is remodeled, and two Quan Yin statues appear each in its own niche. One is about 2 feet tall and the other is about 3 feet tall. Then the two characters that are speaking to each other sit down on a small couch below the 3 foot high statue. The statue of Quan Yin literally watches over them. This can only be of a conscience design, across many different directors, across decades.

4.) Late in the movie "Top Hat" Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers dance INBETWEEN two 4 feet high statues of Quan Yin.

5.) In "Experiment Perilous" when George Brent is in the study, pretending to have just received a phone call, there is a statue of Quan Yin in the foreground next to the phone.

6.) In the movie "The Big Clock" when Janoth is in Steve Hagen's home there are 2 Quan Yin statues on the fireplace in the background. (There are a dozen or so statues also in the home of the painter Louise Patterson at least one of which could be another statue of Quan Yin. It's the large statue  in the corner. Unfortunately, the head is cut off, but the hands can be seen in an unusual gesture sometimes associated with Asian and/or Indian female gods.)  

7.) In "A Life of Her Own" there were 4 Quan Yin Statues shown. Quan Yin first appears in Mary's apartment, two feet tall, and the statue is prominently displayed. Then Quan Yin appears twice in Lily's apartment in the entry and on the piano. Then, incredibly for her fourth appearance in the movie, Quan Yin is on the mantel in Steve's hotel room.

8.) Another movie, more Quan Yin statues. Here we go again. Most recently we watched "When Were You Born." Now this is a movie about a Chinese astrologist who helps solve the murder of an oriental artifacts dealer. So I wasn't going to write about all the Quan Yin statues located throughout the shop windows, stores, and houses, because of course, it was a movie set in San Francisco's Chinatown. That is until the last 5 minutes of the movie. So here's what happened. The police and the astrologer are in the home of the prime suspect of two murders. The police are searching for the suspect, when the astrologer and the chief of police enter a room together searching for the suspect. On the desk is a statue of Quan Yin. Now get this, in the middle of their desperate search for the suspect, the astrologer says to the chief inspector "What a beautiful statue of Quan Yin, it must be very expensive." This was apropos of nothing to do with the plot. At this time the statue is 45 degrees to the viewer. The astrologer then sits down at the desk and works on an astrological chart, while the shot shows the statue of Quan Yin now turned to face the astrologer who is sitting looking at her inches away, 90 degrees to the viewer. Then there is a close up of her pet monkey climbing over the statue. Moments later, when the chief inspector re-enters the room, the statue is turned again, this time 45 degrees to the viewer. Then another close-up of the monkey on the statue. Then when the inspector is in the room looking for the astrologer, he puts his hand on the statue. Moments later when the chief inspector enters the from the left, the statue is turned again. Moments later, in another shot, and for the rest of the movie the statue is turned 90 degrees from the viewer. Then throughout all the rest of the explanation, confession, arrest and general wrap-up of the case, everyone is standing behind the desk with the statue of Quan Yin in the foreground. I'm not making this stuff up. Please look for yourself. I'm only noting the movies when I can definitely discern that there is a statue of Quan Yin in it. In this case, well, a character actually calls the audience's attention to the statue, and a character touches the statue.

There are many times when I strongly suspect I see a Quan Yin statue in the background, but I am unable to unequivocally say it's her. Also, there are many movies I watched and noticed the Quan Yin statues, but never really paid attention to them, because I didn't know anything about Quan Yin. Finally, I traced down who the statues represented, and only recently began keeping track of them.

I can die without knowing what this Hollywood - Quan Yin thing is. But I think I've stumbled on some sort of inside cognoscenti thing, and I'm a little intrigued. Can you suggest what the meaning of all those Quan Yin statues in old movies is? I've had to ask my wife if I'm nuts in seeing this Quan Yin thing in old movies. But there she is, I have the proof, and I can point to the statues, and my wife is mystified too.

Steve Weston
Lompoc, California
(805) 717-2946

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?


9.) In "Whirlpool," directed by Otto Preminger, in 1953, a three foot high statue of Quan Yin was quite obviously displayed. It was when Ann and Korvo are together alone in the study at Mrs. Cosgrove's party. Three feet high - I'm not exaggerating or making this stuff up.As in "The Big Sleep," during the conversation in the study, the Quan Yin statue frequently appears as if a third party to the conversation,standing in between Korvo and Ann.

10.) In 1946's "The Razor's Edge" Quan Yin appears 3 times in one room. The room is in Elliott Tempeleton's Paris apartment. First, she appears in between the windows. Granted, there are a great many Chinese objet 'd arte scattered among the French antiques, unlike most of the other sightings, but here's the thing: The 3 foot tall statue is set on a 3 1/2 foot high pedestal, thus the statue of Quan Yin towers over all the characters. I strained to identify this statue when I first spied it. Later, when Somerset Maugham enters the room, the statue can easily be identified as Quan Yin. In a later scene, when Maugham sits on the couch two statues can be seen behind him on a table, one of which is Quan Yin. Finally, a small seated Quan Yin can be seen on the end table to the right of Maugham. This statue is in profile, but it can be identified as Quan Yin because of the large distinctive hair bun.

An interesting aspect of this room is that a great deal of manipulation occurs there. Ostensibly, the manipulation is rationalized as "helping," or "saving" the manipulated person. It seems to be an "ironic theme" that manipulation of others occurs under the the watchful gaze of Quan Yin in the background.

11.) In the 1938 movie "The Saint in New York," we noticed in the opening credits that the art director was Van Nest Polglase, so we kept our eyes peeled for Quan Yin Statues. That damn Polglase puts so many statues in scenes that often it seems they were filmed in a statue store. We were frustrated at being unable to make out for sure that any of the statues were of Quan Yin, that is until, good old Polglase wanted us to see Quan Yin. It was near the end of the movie when Simon confronts Hutch in Fey's apartment. Just before Hutch unplugs the lamp there is a statue of Quan Yin on the Mantel to the right of Hutch.

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

Wow, very interesting. I've seen most of these films but never noticed the recurring statue. This phenomenon reminds me of the J&B bottles that pop up in so many Italian movies from the 1970s.
At first I thought Quan Yin might be a studio prop being re-used. But it sounds like these statues are often different sizes?


Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

Yes, these statues are all of varying size, color, type, etc; they are not the same recycled prop. Also the movies are from different studios. Before I forget, he IMDb blog will be ending on Feb. 20th, so if you want me to keep you updated please send me your email address. There have been additional sightings since I posted this. The placement of Quan Yin statues is exactly as I have described, i.e. deliberate and obvious, and now even the the most sceptical professors, other academics, and film historians are convinced as well. Most mysteriously, I have attempted to contact the Set Decorators Society of America regarding this. So have several film professors and film historians. Yet the SDSA remains mum. My email is steve.weston at

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

So you're going deep with this! I'll try to keep track of you before this place burns down.

One thing missing is screenshots. I don't suppose you've taken any? You probably can't do it unless you have the films on DVD/computer.


Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

No screenshots. Professor Conner of the USC Film School suggested I make a spreadsheet listing all the art directors and set decorators, which I did. It has shown amazing connections. Boy I sure wish I could take screenshots, because that would really make the case crystal clear and unimpeachable.These are all on my Direct TV DVR. I can watch these on something like Amazon. Do you know if screenshots can be made on an Amazon streaming video? I don't know why none of the academics, professors, and film historians haven't mentioned this before. In fact, this is a great idea. I'm going to start researching this right now.

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

It would be hard to take real screenshots from Amazon unless you can view the stream though a media player like VLC or MPC-HC. Technically you could use PrintScreen.

How do I "print screen"? For Windows:

To save a screenshot to a file which is saved in the Pictures folder, either:
- Press the Windows Key + PrtScn keys on the keyboard.
- On tablets, press Windows Logo + Volume down.
To take a screenshot and copy it to the clipboard, either:
- Press the PrtScn key on the keyboard to capture the whole screen.
- For a single window, tap or click the window you want to capture, press Alt + PrtScn keys on the keyboard.

It's not the ideal way to make a screenshot since the resolution of the resulting image may be wrong. But maybe it's better than nothing.

I do have DOA and The Big Sleep on DVD. If you know the timestamps of the appearances I can try to screencap them.


Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

It's a conspiracy from the wicked minds of the yellow peril! Call Doc Savage.

"Don't go down to the lake." -Joe Taylor played by Jack Palance in Without Warning (1980)

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

You are into this WAY too deep.

PS No offense, but nobody cares.

Schrodinger's cat walks into a bar, and doesn't.

Re: Why are there so many statues of Quan Yin in old movies?

That's what he said!