Preserved Body Inside Ancient Buddhist Statue Revealed
by Stephen Luntz
A nearly 1,000-year-old statue has left China for the first time and the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands thought they’d run it through a CT scanner, as you do. They confirmed that the statue holds the mummified remains of a man, while also finding some intriguing insights into the mummification process.
To inexpert eyes, the statue looks like it is of the Buddha, but it lacks most of the distinctive features that artists use to identify Gautama Buddha. Researchers believe the body inside is that of Buddhist master Liuquan, a practitioner of the Chinese Meditation School who lived around 1100 AD.
Besides the use of the scanner, the hospital had gastrointestinal specialist Dr. Raynald Vermeijden take samples of material from the thoracic and abdominal cavities. In places where organs once were, the team found paper scraps printed with yet to be deciphered ancient Chinese characters. It is unclear what role the paper played in the mummification process.
The statue was studied after being displayed at the Drents Museum as part of an exhibition of mummies revealing the similarities and differences in mummification processes from around the world. It is currently on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum. Not only is this the first time this particular statue has left China, but it is also the only Chinese Buddhist mummy available for scientific research in the West, the Center claims.
There is speculation that Liuquan engaged in the practice of self-mummification, a gruesome process where monks from certain traditions prepare themselves to not decay after death through a combination of diet and consumption of poisonous herbs and embalming fluid. This has yet to be confirmed, however.