When researchers at the Meander Medical Centre used a CT scan to peek inside a Buddhist statue, estimated to be from the 11th or 12th century, they had no idea what they would find. The scan revealed that encased within the statue was the 1,000-year-old mummy of a Chinese Monk. The most fascinating part of it all is that the individual’s organs have been replaced with Chinese scrolls full of handwritten script.
Scientists knew that they would likely find a mummy inside of the statue, but the CT scan offered more than expected. The hidden paper scrolls came as a huge surprise. The information obtained from these writings granted researchers a deeper glimpse into the history behind the statue and the mummy buried within.
The scans were conducted as a request from the Drents Museum in the Netherlands. The scrolls revealed that the body belonged to Master Liuquan, an ancient Buddhist Master from the Chinese Meditation School. The Liuquan mummy is now on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum through May of 2015.
The discovery of the Buddhist Master Liuquan is culturally significant because it is the only one of its type. Also, it is the only Chinese Buddhist mummy scientific researchers in the West have to work with.
With the help of an endoscope made especially for this project by Surgical Technologies, researchers extracted an unidentified material from the mummy, as well as examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities. It was deep in these regions researchers discovered some rotten materials along with the paper scraps printed with Chinese characters.
From the CT scans researchers took highly detailed images that beautifully show exactly what the mummy safely buried inside looks like. The Master sits in a lotus pose with his legs crossed, as if in a meditative state.
Researchers have a lot to analyze in the lab, including the unknown material extracted from the mummy, as well as DNA. Amazingly, the team was able to recover small samples of bone material that will allow them to conduct DNA testing on the mummified monk.
The research findings will be published in a monograph that will appear with the Master Liuquan mummified statue. In the mean time, the mummy remains on display at the Natural History Museum in Budapest.
The Liuquan statue will remain at the Natural History Museum through May 2015 as a part of the museum’s special exhibition MUMMIEWORLD. This exhibit includes 28 different mummies from different time eras and parts of the world. To see all of these unique mummies together in one exhibition is a rare and special treat!
The Liuquan mummy was on display prior to the discovery, and went in for internal examination on September 3rd. The research team was lead by Amersfoort resident Erik Brujin, an expert on Buddhist art and culture as well as the guest curator at the World Museum in Rotterdam. He worked alongside gastrointestinal and liver doctor Reinoud Vermeijden, as well as a radiologist named Ben Heggelman to perform the CT scan and proper examination.
Using their combined expertise and the incredible technology offered by the CT scan, researchers at the lab were able to accumulate so much information about the mummy without damaging or opening the sacred statue.
According to some practicing Buddhists, mummies buried in a cross-legged lotus position are not dead but simply in an in-between realm, or rather an advanced state of meditation.