Leaving China for the first time, a 1,000-year-old statue shares an interesting secret.

At the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands, this ancient work of art was studied closely, even ran through a CT scanner to reveal its insides. The scan revealed that there was a skeleton within the ancient form, which helped scientists understand many aspects of the mummification process.

True Identity

At first glance, the statue resembles Gautama Buddha. A closer inspection of the facial features and other characteristics points toward another individual. Scientists now believe the body within the sculpture is Liuquan, a Buddhist master who lived in 1100 AD. Liuquan was also a practitioner at the Chinese Meditation School.

It is believed that Liuguan completed the practice of self-mummification, which is conducted by eating certain foods and herbs. These substances, some of them very toxic, would aid in keeping the body from decaying after death. He basically embalmed himself before death!

Although this is the likely reason for the monk’s death, it is still speculation only. Further testing and testing on other similar subjects could shed light upon this practice in the future.

A Closer look within

Scientists wanted to know as much as they could about the ancient Buddha Master, but before tests could be conducted, the statue was displayed at the Drents Museum in the exhibition of Mummies.

After the display, the statue was scanned revealing the remains within. After scans of the statue were completed, gastrointestinal specialist Dr. Raynald Vermeijden collected samples from the abdominal cavities and thoracic region of the body inside. One of the strangest discoveries were strips of paper with printed Chinese characters embedded in areas where organs used to be.

Close inspection revealed differences and similarities in mummification processes around the world. This sample of work from China displayed enough evidence to support at least one practice of mummification.

Where is it now?

The Liuguan Buddhist statue is now on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, It is well known as the only Buddhist Statue from China that was made available for scientific study.

Featured image: Krajmukundan / CC BY-SA

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