Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue

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Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue

Postby admin » Sat Oct 24, 2015 9:56 pm

Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue
by Rossella Lorenzi
February 23, 2015

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Image: A scan reveals the body of a nearly 1,000-year-old Buddhist monk inside the statue of Buddha. Credit: Drents Museum.

Researchers at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands made a shocking discovery when they imaged an ancient Chinese statue and found a nearly 1,000-year-old mummy inside.

Sitting in the lotus position, the mummy fits within the statue perfectly.

"On the outside, it looks like a large statue of Buddha," the museum said in a release. "Scan research has shown that on the inside, it is the mummy of a Buddhist monk who lived around the year 1100."

Corpse of 200-Year-Old Monk Found in Lotus Position

Glowing through the statue's golden cast, the human skeleton is believed to belong to Buddhist master Liuquan, a member of the Chinese Meditation School.

To further investigate the mummy, the researchers took the statue to the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort and carried out an endoscopy and additional CT scans.

They found out that Liuquan's internal organs had been removed.

"The mummified body hidden inside the buddhist statue is sitting on a roll of cloth," Buddhism expert Erik Bruijn told Discovery News. "On this cloth are Chinese characters written in black ink, mentioning the name of the venerable monk: Liuquan," he added.

According to Bruijn, the name means "Six Perfections."

"It refers to the virtues perfected by a being who seeks buddhahood through the systematic practice of the six perfect virtues but renounces complete entry into nirvana until all beings are saved," Bruijn said.

The museum speculates Liu Quan Liuquan may have "self-mummified" in order to become a "living Buddha."

Practiced mainly in Japan, self-mummification was a grueling process that required a monk to follow a strict 1,000-day diet of nuts and seeds in order to strip the body of fat. A diet of bark and roots would follow for another 1,000 days.

At the end of this period, the monk began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Japanese varnish tree, normally used to lacquer bowls and plates. The tea caused profuse vomiting as well as a rapid loss of bodily fluids, possibly making the body too poisonous to be eaten by bacteria and insects.

A living skeleton, the monk was then placed in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, which was equipped with an air tube and a bell.

Never moving from the lotus position, the monk would ring the bell each day to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the monk was presumed dead, the air tube removed and the tomb sealed.

After another 1,000 days the tomb would be opened to check whether the monk had been successfully mummified. Of the hundreds of monks that tried this horrifying process, only a few dozen actually became self-mummified and venerated in temples as a Buddha.

Researchers aren't certain when or how this monk's organs were then removed.

The Buddha statue is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest. It will remain there until May.

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Re: Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue

Postby admin » Sat Oct 24, 2015 10:07 pm

Mummy Found Hiding Inside Ancient Buddha Statue
by Tia Ghose
Livescience Senior Writer
February 23, 2015

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During routine restoration, researchers discovered a surprise hidden in an ancient gold-painted Chinese Buddha statue: a mummy hidden inside. The mummy was once the Buddhist monk Liuquan, according to text found with the statue.
Credit: ©Ben Heggelman (Meander Medical Centre, Amersfoort) / Universityhospital Mannheim


Editor's Note: This story was updated on March 3 at 10:10 a.m. E.T.

A Chinese statue of a sitting Buddha has revealed a hidden surprise: Inside, scientists found the mummified remains of a monk who lived nearly 1,000 years ago.

The mummy may have once been a respected Buddhist monk who, after death, was worshipped as an enlightened being, one who helped the living end their cycle of suffering and death, said Vincent van Vilsteren, an archaeology curator at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands, where the mummy (from inside the Buddha statue) was on exhibit last year.

The secret hidden in the gold-painted statue was first discovered when preservationists began restoring the statue many years ago. But the human remains weren't studied in detail until researchers took scans and samples of tissue from the mummy late last year.

The mysterious statue is now on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest.

Mysterious history

The papier-mâché statue, which has the dimensions, roughly, of a seated person and is covered in lacquer and gold paint, has a murky history. It was likely housed in a monastery in Southeastern China for centuries. It may have been taken from the country during the Cultural Revolution, a tumultuous period of social upheaval in Communist China starting in 1966 when Chairman Mao Zedong urged citizens to seize property, dismantle educational systems and attack "bourgeois" cultural institutions. (The current owner bought the statue legally.)

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A gold-painted papier-mâché statue of the Buddha contained the mummified remains of an ancient Buddhist monk who lived during the 11th or 12th century. Here, a researcher inspects the statue.
Credit: © Drents Museum


The statue was bought and sold again in the Netherlands, and in 1996, a private owner decided to have someone fix the chips and cracks that marred the gold-painted exterior. However, when the restorer removed the statue from its wooden platform, he noticed two pillows emblazoned with Chinese text placed beneath the statues' knees. When he removed the pillows, he discovered the human remains.

"He looked right into the bottom of this monk," van Vilsteren told Live Science. "You can see part of the bones and tissue of his skin."

The mummy was sitting on a rolled textile carpet covered in Chinese text.

Researchers then used radioactive isotopes of carbon to determine that the mummy likely lived during the 11th or 12th century, while the carpet was about 200 years older, van Vilsteren said. (Isotopes are variations of elements with different numbers of neutrons.)

In 2013, researchers conducted a CT scan of the mummy at Mannheim University Hospital in Germany, revealing the remains in unprecedented detail. In a follow-up scan at the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort, Netherlands, the researchers discovered that what they thought was lung tissue actually consisted of tiny scraps of paper with Chinese text on them.

The text found with the mummy suggests he was once the high-status monk Liuquan, who may have been worshipped as a Buddha, or a teacher who helps to bring enlightenment after his death.

Last year, the mummy was on display at the "Mummies – Life Beyond Death" exhibit at the Drents Museum in Netherlands, before moving to the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest.

Common practice

Mummies from this period are fairly common in Asia. For instance, researchers in Mongolia recently found a 200-year-old mummified monk still in the lotus position, the traditional cross-legged meditative pose.

It's not clear exactly how Liuquan became a mummy, but "in China, and also in Japan and Laos and Korea, there's a tradition of self-mummification," van Vilsteren said.

In some cases, aging Buddhist monks would slowly starve themselves to eliminate decay-promoting fat and liquid, while subsisting mainly on pine needles and resin to facilitate the mummification process, according to "Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan," (McFarland, 2010). Once these monks were near death, they would be buried alive with just a breathing tube to keep them holding on so they could meditate until death.

"There are historical records of some aging monks who have done this practice," van Vilsteren said. "But if this is also the case with this monk is not known."

Editor's Note: This story was updated to note that the current owner of the Buddha bought the statue legally.
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