A number of these mummies
exist on the main Japanese island of Honshu. They are also found in
Vietnam and other southeast Asian countries
One unusual method of mummy
creation first occurred in Japan between the years 1000-1200 B.C.
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,
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
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
Scientific Study of Mummies contains
five pages about Buddhist mummies from Japan and includes three black
and white photos.
and Eve Cockburn's Mummies,
Disease, & Ancient Cultures
has some information about these mummies including a few black and white
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!