China seeking return of 'stolen' Buddha statue

Updated: 2015-03-25 11:34


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China seeking return of 'stolen' Buddha statue

A CT scan shows a body, whose internal organs were removed, concealed in an ancient Chinese statue of a Buddha. [Photos provided by the Drents Museum]

A State Administration of Cultural Heritage official said they are working with other departments to secure the return of a Buddha statue containing a mummified monk.

New evidence has emerged supporting the theory that the 1,000-year-old relic was stolen from China.

Jin Ruiguo said Tuesday that based on photos, local archives and witness statements the statue was stolen from a temple in Yangchun village in East China's Fujian province in 1995.

The department is gathering further evidence and working with others to secure the statue's return, Jin said.

The statue was included in a "Mummy World" exhibition at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, which opened in October last year.

The museum borrowed it from the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands. The Dutch owner later withdrew it from the exhibition without explanation.

The collector issued a statement saying the statue was obtained in 1994 from "a sincere Chinese friend in art circles." The statue was shipped to the collector's home in Amsterdam from a workshop in Hong Kong in 1995, the same year a Buddha relic was reported stolen in China.

The statue, about 1.2 meters tall, attracted attention after a scan last year revealed it contained a mummy of a 12th century Buddhist monk, sat on a pillow reputed to be around 300 years older.

In ancient China, monks who made great achievements usually practiced self-mummification when they felt they were about to die. They stopped eating and drinking to deplete their organs in the period until death.

After a monk died, he was buried sitting in the lotus position in a clay vessel. The preserved body was decorated with paint and adorned with gold.

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