Skeletal remains were found in a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue from China in what appears to be a rare case of “self-mummification,” according to Archaeology.org.
The site reports the discovery came with the help of CT scans and an endoscopy of the golden-cast statue, which show a “mummified body thought to belong to the Buddhist master Liuquan of the Chinese Meditation School.”
The statue now lives at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands, and Archaeology.org says the statue’s examination happened at the Meander Medical Center.
Self-mummification is reportedly where “monks would follow a special diet that turned them into ‘living skeletons’ and would then be placed into tombs only slightly larger than themselves, where they would eventually die.”
“Sitting in the lotus position, the mummy fits within the statue perfectly,” says Discovery News.
In addition, Discovery News says 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.
The Buddha statue is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest until May.