Last year, Netherlands’ Drents Museum commissioned a CT scan of one of its Buddhist monk statues and found a mummified Buddhist monk inside it.
Buddhism expert Erik Bruijn said the mummy was of Buddhist master Liuquan. He was from the Chinese Meditation School and died around 1100AD. And according to the International Business Times, many monks would consider Liuquan to be meditating, not dead.
A study of another CT scan and endoscopy in September revealed Liuquan’s internal organs had been removed and replaced with scripts covered in Chinese writing.
That discovery cast doubts on theories that Liuquan may have “self-mummified”, a practice which was mainly practiced in Japan until it was banned in 1879 as it was considered a form of assisted suicide.
Only 24 cases have been discovered, the most recent just last month in Ulan Bator in Mongolia, where a 200-year-old body was found in the lotus position.
Monks attempting to self-mummified first went on a 1000-day diet of nuts, seeds and fruit while exercising intensely to rid their bodies of all fat.
A famous example is Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, whose 75-year-old corpse, when examined in 2002, was described as being “in the condition of someone who had died 36 hours ago”.
The next 1000-day diet would consist only of roots, pine bark and a toxic tea made from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree. The tea was supposed to preserve the body and expel any parasites.
Once completed (five-and-a-half-years later!) the monk would be encased in the lotus position in a stone tomb barely large enough to hold them, with just a small tube to breathe through.
They would signal being alive by ringing a bell.
Once the ringing stopped, another 1000 days would be counted off and the tomb opened to see if the mummification process had taken place. If so, the monk was considered to have attained buddha-hood and put on display in temples.
If Liuquan had self-mummified successfully, some experts say it’s unlikely his body would have been interfered with after death. Even so, those monks who failed the ultimate test were still revered for their extreme devotion to the task.
The statue is currently on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum until May.