Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Buddha Statue with Mummy in Hospital

Chinese mummy inside of a Buddha statue
(private collection, photo by M. Elsevier Stokmans)

This Buddha statue was exhibited earlier this year in an exhibition in the Drents Museum (where it was shown for the first time outside China). The mummified body of the Buddhist master Liuquan, a monk who lived around the year 1100 and who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School, is hidden in this precious reliquary dating from the eleventh or twelfth century.

The statue was examined with a CT scan (photo by Jan van Esch) 

In Amersfoort's main hospital, Meander Medical Centre, the nearly thousand year old mummy has been recently examined with a CT scan and an endoscope. Several hospital employees helped with this unique project in their free time. A gastrointestinal and liver doctor took samples of yet unidentified material and examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities.

The hospital: "He made a spectacular discovery: at the place where once had been organs, he found, among all kinds of rotten material, paper scraps that were printed with ancient Chinese characters."

(photo by Jan van Esch) 

Also samples of bones were taken for DNA testing. The research will be published in a monograph that will appear about Master Liuquan. Meanwhile the mummy has been transported to Hungary where it will be on display in the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest until May 2015.

Update February 23, 2015: more info about self-mummification can be found at The History Blog.

next episode: Eva

14 comments:

  1. Paper scraps, really?! What an interesting and fascinating project. I'm so happy you shared it with us. Great photos of the process too.

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  2. Excellent post, really interesting and insightful.

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  3. This is so interesting; I hope they make more discoveries from those samples.

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  4. Wow, how strange and interesting. So many questions...

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  5. This is fascinating. May I have permission to link it to TSU?

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  6. It is a Buddhist practice to consecrated a statue with sutras and mantras. I am wondering if that is what those pieces of paper are?

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  7. I tried to make a comment and went to preview it and I don't know if you got it or not. I hope you did. Barbara Hinkley Weigel

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  8. Well I can see that that one made it so I'll try this again. I was thinking about the scraps of paper. If they ate it before they died, the acid in the stomach would have rendered it unrecognizable. You don't suppose that they removed the organs and put the scraps of paper inside to replace the organs and soak up any remaining blood and bodily fluids? This really makes you think and wonder. How many other Buddas' are out there with other people inside or other bits of information that we could really learn something about the way things were back then. Maybe this is their form of a time capsule. What made anyone even think that there might be a person inside or did they use a person's body as a mold to make this Buda. I can't wait to find out more, so someone please keep me in the loop. Such a fascinating discovery!

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    1. I didn't think about them just using the body to form the buda. And having to stuff the corpse with paper to make it solid

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  9. This is all very fascinating and I look forward the hearing more about the findings but I do hope that permission from the Chinese government was secured before any of this investigation began. Otherwise it would be an extraordinary breach of protocol and respect.

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  10. As usual, (pun) inspiring.

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  11. as I found out in an interview with the Drents Museum, this Mummy was about 200 years in an monastery and than later in 14th century this sculpture was formed around the mummy. So it is not clear but possible, that at this time the papers were put into the corpse.

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