May 1, 2016
Chinese Mummified Monk Covered With Gold Leaf And Made Into Statue

The mummified body of a revered Buddhist monk who died in 2012 has been covered in gold leaf and made into a statue, which will serve as inspiration for followers of the religion. Fu Hou died at age 94 after spending most of his life at the Chongfu Temple on a hill in the city of Quanzhou in southeastern China, according to the temple's abbot, Li Ren. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that after his death, "his body was washed, treated by two mummification experts, and sealed inside a large pottery jar in a sitting position."

Check out the unveiling of his golden statue in the Twitter video below.

The temple mummified him after his death as a "mark of respect" because of his dedication to Buddhism. Fu Hou had practiced the religion for 81 years -- he started as a teenager. Although he had little contact with the outside world, "he had a kind heart according to his peers," reported the People's Daily. He was also considered to be a "wonderful preacher." The holy man decided before his death that he wanted to have his body preserved.

It is likely that he practiced self-mummification in order to prepare for the after-life, as many Monks attempted to do in the ancient world. The act is said to be banned by any Buddhist sect today, but the "arduous process" involves "drinking a poisonous tea so the body would be too toxic to be eaten by maggots." The few monks who were able to successfully complete the full process were highly revered, CNN notes. Self-mummification was practiced over a thousand years ago, and is a known tradition in countries like China, Japan, and Thailand.

When the jar containing Fu Hou's mummified body was opened three years later, (in January, 2016) he was found intact with little sign of deterioration. Local Buddhist belief is that "only a truly virtuous monk's body would remain intact after being mummified," according to local media reports.

Since January 10, 2016, the "monk's body had gone through a series of treatment including sterilizing and painting." After three months, workers began the last process — gilding with gold leaf. See images of the process here.

The National Post notes that after Fu Hou's body was removed from the far, it was then "washed with alcohol and covered with layers of gauze, lacquer and finally gold leaf." It was also robed, and carefully placed in a glass case protected with an anti-theft device.

"Monk Fu Hou is now being placed on the mountain for people to worship," said Li Ren.

In related news, when a 200-year-old mummified monk was found in Mongolia last year, high level Buddhists claimed that he was not dead, he was simply in a deep state of meditation, reported the Huff Post UK. Initial speculation was that the mummy could have been the teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov.

Noted Buddhist academic and physician to the Dalai Lama, Dr. Barry Kerzin, said the monk was in a "tukdam state" -- one step away from reaching enlightenment and becoming a Buddha.

"I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state," he said. "If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks -- which rarely happens -- his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually, in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a 'rainbow body.' This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha."

"The lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolises of the preaching Sutra. This is a sign that the lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas," Gankhüügiin Pürevbat, the founder of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, told the Siberian Times.

While some mummified monks may remain in a deep, meditative sleep for several hundred years, the act of covering the body in gold leaf is a rare honor, and only reserved for holy men in some areas who dedicate their lives to Buddhism.

[Photo via Shutterstock]