Art & Design

Written by Mies van den Biggelaar

M. Elsevier Stokmans
Image by: M. Elsevier Stokmans

Buddha statue contains mummified monk

From a temple in China, to a market in The Netherlands, into the hands of a private buyer, brought to an expert and finally put through a CT scan. This statue of a sitting Buddha revealed an extraordinary secret at the end of its long travel: when put through a CT scan a 1000-year-old mummified Buddhist monk was found.

A CT scan and endoscopy carried out by the Netherlands-based Drents Museum at the Meander Medical Centre Amersfoort, revealed the mummified remains of Buddhist master Liuquan, of the Chinese Meditation School.

The monk is sitting in the lotus position and the researchers think he might have practiced self-mummification, which is a known tradition in countries like China, Japan and Thailand. The process of self-mummification includes a special diet as well as drinking a poisonous tea, so the body would be too toxic to be eaten by maggots.

"We suspect that for the first 200 years, the mummy was exposed and worshiped in a Buddhist temple in China... Only in the 14th century did they do all the work to transform it into a nice statue." said one of the researchers, Vincent van Vilsteren (an archaeology curator at the Drents Museum).

One of the biggest discoveries made with the CT scan was that the mummy’s organs were missing. Vincent van Vilsteren stated: "We thought it would be lung tissue, but instead we found little scraps of paper covered with Chinese characters."

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Jan van Esch
Image by: Jan van Esch

Tags: Drents Museum , CT scan , Mummy , Buddha

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