Buddhist monk mummy might return to China

Chinese Mummy Scan
Willem 1, Buddhist mummy. Statue (L), CT scan (R). (Photos: Drents Museum)Willem 1, Buddhist mummy. Statue (L), CT scan (R). (Photos: Drents Museum)

Chinese media is claiming that the Buddha statue containing a skeleton of a Chinese monk was stolen from a Chinese village in 1995, and the country wants it returned. The statue is currently owned by a Dutch private collector and was on display in Drents Museum in Assen until the recent return to its owner, newswire ANP writes. 

Residents of the Yangchun village saw the image of the statue on state television and alarmed the authorities that the Buddha was possibly stolen from a temple in their municipality twenty years ago.

The Dutch owner of the statue  said he will return the statue to the village once they can prove its origin, according to the Chinese state Xinhua news agency. He will not simply hand it over to the state of China.

The anonymous owner claims they bought the statue from a fellow collector in Amsterdam in 1996, who in turn acquired it from a Chinese acquaintance a few years earlier in Hong Kong. Afraid that it might get stolen, the owner withdrew the statue from a touring exhibition, and loaned it to the Natural History Museum in Budapest, Hungary.

The twelfth century mummified monk inside the statue was discovered in 1997 during restoration of the object. Dutch researcher Erik Bruijn, specialized in Buddhist art and culture, could then with further research tell specific details about the monk, such as his cause of death.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday. Rutte led a Dutch business delegation to China on March 24th in order to strengthen political, cultural and business relations between the countries and to offer expertise on climate handling.