A CT scan has revealed the mummified remains of a monk inside a 1,000-year-old Chinese Buddha statue with paper scraps in place of his organs.
A recent CT scan of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue has revealed the mummified remains of a Chinese monk believed to have died around 1100 AD. An endoscopic examination of the thoracic and abdominal cavities revealed scraps of paper with Chinese writing were used to replace the organs.
Researchers suggest this may be a case of self-mummification, a long and gruesome process that, if done successfully, would elevate a monk to Buddha status for worship.
The most well-known cases of self-mummification are the Japanese sokushinbutsu, though it was also practiced in China and India as far back as the 12th century.
The slow, 3,000-day process of mummifying oneself to death involved a diet of things like nuts, seeds, bark and roots, as well as extensive physical activity to starve the body of nutrients and eliminate fat and moisture.
A poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tea would induce vomiting to expel body fluids, and serve to kill bacteria and maggots that cause decay after death.
The monk would then lock himself in a tomb just large enough to hold his body. Seated in the lotus position, he would enter a state of meditation from which he would not awake. A tube would provide air, and he would ring a bell every day to signal he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed.
It was opened again after 1,000 days to see if the self-mummification ritual had been successful. If the monk was found preserved, it was believed he had achieved a death-like trance and would be placed in a temple for worship until it was time for him to reawaken.