One story describes her origin as the daughter of a cruel father who wanted her to marry a wealthy but uncaring man. She begged to be able to enter a temple instead. Her father allowed her, but asked the monks to give her very hard chores in order to discourage her. She was forced to work all day and all night while others slept in in order to finish her work. However, she was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he burned down the temple. Kwan Yin put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Now struck with fear, her father ordered her to be put to death. After she died she was made into a goddess for all of her kindness and began her journey to heaven. She was about to cross over into heaven when she heard a cry of suffering back on earth. She asked to be sent back and vowed to stay until all suffering had ended.
There is some dispute over the gender of Kwan yin. In Chinese Buddhism, Kwan Yin has been portrayed as a female, hence the term 'Goddess of Mercy'. However, there have been some scholars in the past decade arguing that the bodhisattva is male, and that his gender was mistaken because all drawings of him show him in a robe and a cowl over his head. Since Chinese males don't traditionally dress that way, most worshippers assumed Kwan yin was female.
There is a chinese oolong Tea named "Tie-Guan-Yin" (at one purveyor's) which has been translated as "Iron Goddess of Mercy". Any idea why "Iron"?
There is a legend associated with this name. A peasant farmer often passed by an abandoned temple with an iron statue of Guanyin inside. Saddened by the lack of care, he took it upon himself to sweep and clean the temple whenever he passed by. In thanks, Guanyin visited the peasant in a dream and told him to look for treasure behind the temple. When he woke from the dream, he rushed to the rear of the temple and found a small tea shrub. The leaves of this shrub produced a particularly fragrant brew and the peasant became rich by cultivating and selling his "Iron Guanyin" tea.