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Buddhist Mummies

     Where were they found

A number of these mummies exist on the main Japanese island of Honshu. They are also found in Vietnam and other southeast Asian countries

 

    When were they made

One unusual method of mummy creation first occurred in Japan between the years 1000-1200 B.C.

 

     How were they made

Some Buddhist priests attempted to mummify themselves while they were still living. To accomplish this, the priest would go on a very strict diet for a period of three years. He would no longer eat such foods as rice, barley, or beans. As he began to lose weight, the priest would place large candles around his body and light them - in effect, the priest was drying out his body with the heat produced by the candles. By the time the priest died of starvation, his body was practically mummified. To make sure that mummification was complete, the body was then placed in an underground tomb for three years before being dried out, one more time, by candles.

 

      How many were made

No estimates of the number of Buddhist mummies have been made.

 

     What's special about them

The religious devotion required to motivate and endure such mummification practices makes them special.

 

     Where to see them

According to researchers Kiyohiko Satamotsu Ogata, nineteen Buddhist mummies exist today in Japan. All are found on the main island of Honshu, preserved at a number of Buddhist temples.

In Vietnam, two Buddhist monks who died in the 17th Century can be found at the Dau pagoda in Gia Phuc village, 25km south of Hanoi. In 2005, Vietnamese scientists restored the mummies of Vu Khac Minh and Vu Khac Truong, who were 50 and 40-years-old respectively at the time of their deaths. According to iol.co.za, their bodies "depict Buddhist monks in a position of meditation.... Using a sticky plant extract, sawdust, soil from termite hills and muslin netting, a team that includes two sculptors spent more than six months to restore the bodies. They also placed the mummies into glass boxes filled with nitrogen to avoid damage by oxygen.... [T]he two bodies had been damaged by Vietnam's tropical climate. Truong's body had been restored previously after flood damage in 1893.""

"The statues now can last for hundreds of years," said Nguyen Lan Cuong, associate professor of ethnology and head of the restoration project.

 

     Where to find more information 

Arthur Aufderheide's The Scientific Study of Mummies contains five pages about Buddhist mummies from Japan and includes three black and white photos. 

Aidan and Eve Cockburn's Mummies, Disease, & Ancient Cultures has some information about these mummies including a few black and white photographs. 

Heather Pringle's The Mummy Congress spends the better part of one chapter on the subject. Although the book does not contain any photos of the mummies, the text alone is clear and comprehensive. Not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

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