Man's Body Found in Ancient Buddha Statue

Dutch experts say it's the Buddhist master Liuquan
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2015 6:00 PM CST
Ancient Buddha Statue Contains Mummified Monk
The Buddha statue that contains a mummified monk.   (Drents Museum)

Look inside a 1,000-year-old Chinese Buddha statue, and what do you find? Why, a mummified body, of course. At least that's what Dutch researchers saw when performing a CT scan on a statue shown last year in the Netherlands at Drents Museum, Discover reports. The body is believed to be that of Buddhist master Liuquan, who perhaps died while undergoing "self-mummification." In this tradition, old Buddhist monks ingested mostly resin and pine needles until they were nearly dead, reports LiveScience. Then they were buried alive while breathing through a tube so they could meditate until the end. "There are historical records of some aging monks who have done this practice," says an archaeology curator. "But if this is also the case with this monk is not known."

However he got in there, the monk's presence wasn't a total surprise. The statue—which was likely kept in a Chinese monastery for centuries—somehow ended up in the Netherlands, where a private owner discovered a body inside in 1996 while repairing a few cracks and chips. Then a CT scan in Germany in 2013 showed the remains in great detail. The latest scan reveals what appears to be lung tissue along with little bits of paper in place of bodily organs. On the scraps is Chinese text suggesting that the monk was Liuquan, who may have been revered after his death as a "living Buddha," CNET reports. He's not alone, however: Mummies from this period, around the 11th or 12th century, are fairly common in Asia. (A 200-year-old mummified monk in Mongolia may still be alive, Buddhism experts say.)

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