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Vietnamese Mummies, and the mysteries
XigonCongchua
post May 30 2011, 07:08 PM
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No, they're not statues. They're mummies!!!


The mummies of two monks Vũ Khắc Minh and Vũ Khắc Trường





Aside from these two mummies, I know there's another one of a very famous and very respectable monk of the Tran dynasty - Tuệ Tĩnh. But his mummy got burned by the Ming in the 1420s.


So how did they do it? I have no idea...
I read about them many years ago, before I joined AF but there's no English article on them. Now I found one


http://www.southeastasianarchaeology.com/2...namese-mummies/

QUOTE
The mystery of the Vietnamese mummies

These figures are called ‘xa loi Phat’ in Vietnamese, which means, basically, the valuable remains of Buddha that cannot be burnt with fire, dissolved in water or damaged by the passing of time or inclement weather. In other words, the monks are mummies.

When I enter, the pagoda is rather quiet. A few pilgrims are around but the head monk is absent.
On the altar, the mummified monks sit cross-legged in a permanent state of Zen as sweet smelling incense wafts through the air.

Before passing away, Vu Khac Minh confined himself to a room to meditate in the tradition of Zen Buddhism. Legend has it he took one jar of water and one jar of oil inside and informed his disciples to only open the door 100 days after no sound had been heard from inside.

“If my body is undamaged, cover it with tree resin. If it’s smelly, bury it in the room,” his final message read.

After 100 days the room was opened and his dead body was covered with wax-tree resin using traditional lacquer techniques. How exactly he was embalmed is somewhat of a mystery.

According to Professor Nguyen Lan Cuong from the Vietnam Archeology Institute, two monks were embalmed using different techniques.

“In most cases, people have to pull out the body’s internal organs and soak the body with chemicals before embalming, but I believe nothing has been drawn from the monks’ bodies. There is no sign of any chemicals except the waxy tree resin that was used and the statues have been displayed in open-air for 300 years,” says Cuong.

“Their bodies are well preserved thanks to the multi-layered coat of tree resin, cloth and paper. We know of traditional lacquer’s durability after finding lacquered cups in ancient tombs in Chau Can (Ha Tay province) which are 2,000 years old.”

Lacquer artist Dao Ngoc Han claims that not only is the lacquer coat an incredible feat, but the unknown craftsmen’s artistic sensibilities show real talent.

The two statues have been through the wars, quite literally, and survived some bad spells of weather.

“Two French soldiers smashed the knees of Vu Khac Minh to examine inside and both monks were damaged during heavy floods in 1893,” says Lai, a 78-year-old devout Buddhist. “The Vu Khac Truong mummy is clearly damaged with a lot of visible cracks and decay.”

This despite the fact that in 2003 a team from Vietnam Archaeology Institute and Vietnam History museum led by professor Nguyen Lan Cuong repaired the two statues. As I leave Lai is reciting Buddhist scriptures by the monks, and while a watchful eye is necessary, further and regular preservation is also required to ensure these precious and mysterious mummies continue to stand the test of time.

Getting there to Dau Pagoda

Dau pagoda is in Gia Phuc village, Nguyen Trai commune, Thuong Tin district, Ha Tay province, about 30km south of Hanoi. From the city centre, take the Giai Phong road for 15km, then turn right and after 13km you will come to a dyke, turn left there and you’ll find the pagoda on your righthand side 2km further along – you can’t miss it!



There are other very well-preserved mummies though they were preserved with a different method and not statue-like like these. I'll post them later. Hopefully you guys won't get sick.
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Henry123
post May 30 2011, 09:49 PM
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I remember reading something about them XigonCongchua. I think they have photos of them in a temple or something.
Truly fascinating.
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Tav6
post May 30 2011, 09:57 PM
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they really looks fake to me ... more like statues and not real mummies
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XigonCongchua
post May 30 2011, 10:01 PM
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QUOTE (Tav6 @ May 30 2011, 07:57 PM) *
they really looks fake to me ... more like statues and not real mummies

I know they look like statues but they are mummies... They look so because of lacquer and some preservation substance painted over them. You can read the article

The scientific community would know if they're statues. icon_wink.gif
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Tav6
post May 30 2011, 10:04 PM
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but how come they look so plasticky ??? embarassedlaugh.gif embarassedlaugh.gif
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XigonCongchua
post May 30 2011, 10:07 PM
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I think the fact that it's hard to believe contributes to their amazingness

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jul/13/1


QUOTE
Vietnamese mummy puts science on trial

The Vietnamese government has authorised the restoration of the lacquered mummy of a 17th-century Buddhist monk whose state of preservation has baffled scientists.
Researchers say that, unlike those of mummies elsewhere in the world, the monk's internal organs were not removed before the lacquer was applied, and they cannot explain why it is in such good condition.

Professor Nguyen Lan Cuong of the Hanoi Institute of Archaeology, who has studied the mummy for a decade, said: "Radiological examinations ... show that all of its bones and organs are still in the same place as at the moment of death, which makes its preservation for three centuries all the more mysterious."

As Vu Khac Minh neared death in 1639 he told followers to leave him alone for 100 days so that he could meditate.

Legend has it that when they eventually went into his pagoda they found the monk's perfectly preserved corpse still in the lotus position.Taking the view that he had reached Nirvana, they covered the body in red lacquer to preserve it.

The mummy is on show in the pagoda, 20 miles from the capital, Hanoi, and is a popular tourist attraction, but the lacquer on the heads and legs is cracking.

The head monk at the pagoda, Thich Thanh Nhung, does not share the scientists' bewilderment. The mummy's preservation, he says, "illustrates the ability of the body to acquire a new level of grace through Buddhist teachings".
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chiuchimu
post May 30 2011, 10:09 PM
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A dead person inside? I would have never guessed.
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XigonCongchua
post May 30 2011, 10:13 PM
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^ Yea.

You see the leg bones of the man on the left are broken? The French soldiers smashed it to look inside. What a bunch of retarded French. (No offense to the rest of French people)

QUOTE
“Two French soldiers smashed the knees of Vu Khac Minh to examine inside and both monks were damaged during heavy floods in 1893,” says Lai, a 78-year-old devout Buddhist. “The Vu Khac Truong mummy is clearly damaged with a lot of visible cracks and decay.”
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samnang
post May 30 2011, 10:26 PM
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i'd think, "there could be jewels and gold inside those statues." like they're treasure pinatas.

i'd smash 'em open too.

This post has been edited by samnang: May 30 2011, 10:29 PM
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XigonCongchua
post May 30 2011, 10:56 PM
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Now let's talk about other mummies of Vietnam, the ones of kings, queens, princesses and noble women. These were not painted with lacquered like the mummies of the monks but they're still pretty well-preserved. Some of them were exposed to the air for months before the scientists arrived but they're still in good conditions.

People often think that mummies have unpleasantly stinky smell of corpses, but the amazing thing is that these excavated mummies all have very fragrant smell. The fragrance comes from the pine oil that was poured into the coffin to preserve the corpse. This oil has some amazing preservative quality. The ancient Vietnamese also placed dried tea and roasted rice in between blankets and clothes in the coffin so that these materials would absorbe moisture and push out the air, limiting the environment for bacteria thrive. Not to mention that they bathed the corpses in cinnamon wine to kill all the bacteria on the body of the corpses before burying them. Many corpses were conserved for years before they were buried. The coffins were tightly built and all the cracks were sealed with some mixture of pine wax. The woods used to make the coffins were extremely bacteria resistant. Sometimes the coffins were made with double layers that half a meter thick, all to keep air and bacteria from entering.

Here's an English article on it

QUOTE
One up on Egyptian mummies

Vietnamese mummies did not have their organs removed and their bodies were supple and fragrant when unearthed.


Thanks to pine oil, King Le Du Tong’s body remained in rather good condition during the 46 years it was kept at the Hanoi-based National History Museum before being reburied earlier this year

She looked like a sick woman who was asleep.

The thing was – she had been sleeping for several centuries, underground.

The body of Pham Thi Dang, second wife of Dang Dinh Tuong – a high-ranking official under the Le Dynasty (1428-1788) was found 42 years ago in Van Cat Hamlet, in the northern province of Nam Ha (now Nam Dinh).

“We had excavated many mummies, but we couldn’t help being shocked when seeing her, because she looked as if she were just a sick woman who was sleeping,” says Do Dinh Truat.

Decades after studying mummies discovered across the country – from the bodies of royalty and senior officials to the common man, archeologists Do Van Ninh and Truat are still amazed by the ancient Vietnamese technique of preserving bodies.

Despite not having their internal organs and brains removed, as in Egyptian mummies, their bodies were usually found in good condition - soft with joints still supple after being buried for hundreds of years, they said.

Some still retained the facial features they had when they were alive, Truat said.

In the case of Dang, the veteran archeologist even asked a local woman who was at the same age as Dang, 60 years old, to stand next to the body “to see who was more beautiful.”

Pine oil

According to the archeologists, one of the secrets in the Vietnamese techniques of preserving bodies was pine oil, which they say has been found in most mummies


Archeologist Do Dinh Truat with a clod of solid essential pine oil found in an old coffin
The late Prof. Do Xuan Hop, known to many as the “King of Anatomy” was one of the scientists who studied the body of King Le Du Tong (1679-1731) which was found in 1958 in the central province of Thanh Hoa. Hop noted that the king was placed in a coffin that contained lots of pine oil.

The oil made quilted blankets, clothes and shrouds oily, while “the fragrance soaked into his skin and through skin into his internal organs, so [he was] soaked with aroma,” Hop wrote, noting that betel leaves and areca buried with him also remained fresh.

Thanks to the oil, the Le Dynasty king’s body remained in rather good condition during the 46 years it was kept at the Hanoi-based National History Museum before being reburied earlier this year despite the harsh weather in the north, scientists said.

The importance of pine oil was stressed in another article by Hop.

He wrote that the body of a royal wife from the Trinh Lords (1545- 1787), found in 1957, was only examined by scientists a month later. During that month the body was taken out of the coffin and buried in the field for three days before being put into another coffin flooded with water (though it is not clear why this was done). However, it still gave out the pine oil’s aroma.

The body was later washed five times, yet the aroma didn’t fade away, Hop wrote.

Truat also recalled his first impressions of the mummies he saw. “Many people think mummies must stink, but amazingly, they give out the aroma of some wood.” The archeologist said he even once tasted the water at the bottom of a mummy’s coffin and found that it wasn’t fetid, but tasted like turpentine.

More than props

Besides the pine oil, other things like blankets, pillows and clothes which were considered customary belongings for placement in the coffins, worked in fact to get rid of the humidity in coffins, Ninh said.

This was also true of the tam that tinh (Seven-star plank), which was usually placed under the body.

Under Taoism, the plank with seven holes placed in the shape of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear constellation, was believed to protect the deceased’s spirit from evil spirits and ghosts. But it also helped drain water to the 20- centimeter thick layer of roasted rice below, Ninh said

The roasted rice also acted to help remove humidity.

Ninh said dying people usually had some ruou que (cinnamon wine) to lengthen their life for some time to meet all of their children, and they would be washed with the wine again after their death. The wine would help clean the body, within and outside, decreasing the harmful effects of bacteria, he surmised.

It was also a custom that Vietnamese people lit candles in the coffin before putting the body in, and this also helped create a vacuum and kill bacteria, according to Ninh.

Enduring wood

Truat said one of the most noticeable things about Vietnamese mummies was that they were mostly interred in coffins made of ngoc am (or pemou wood) which was highly resistant to termites and bacteria.

The coffins were made by highly skilled carpenters, airsealed and then plastered them with a mixture of raw paints, and sawdust with or without a sticky substance from pine trees mixed with rice paste. Some coffins were made with two layers, with the outer coffins as thick as 0.5 meters, made with lime, sand, molasses or honey, and sometimes strengthened with shell crumbles (not made of wood).

Some outer coffins were so strong that it took 15 young men 40 days to break it, like the one that Nguyen Thi Hieu, believed to be a family member of King Gia Long (1802-1820) under the Nguyen Dynasty, was buried in. Her body, found 16 years ago, is being kept at the Ho Chi Minh City History Museum.

“At the Thuy Xuan Beach in the northern province of Thai Binh, an outer coffin was smoothened by waves over the years, yet locals didn’t realize that (it was an outer coffin) until they accidentally excavated it and found the complete body of a young lady,” Truat said, demonstrating that the body was not damaged even though the coffin was buried on the coast and exposed to factors like salt.

Dr. Phan Bao Khanh, who has studied many mummies in the central region, said the Vietnamese technique of preserving bodies was “a very human way to preserve bodies, as no knives or scissors were used to take out the deceased’s brains and internal organs.”

But it was a pity that this knowledge has been lost with the passage of time, he said.


If you guys want to read in Vietnamese, which got more details, go here. It got 6 parts
http://www.lyhocdongphuong.org.vn/tam-linh...o-van-cat-1655/


I was gonna post some images of some mummies but I find them too disturbing.

You know the thing with Vietnamese archaeology teams is that they are not very well trained in handling excavated corpses. They left some mummies out in the sun, leaving all the water and moisture penetrate through it...but well luckily the mummies were still in good shape.
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daxas24
post May 31 2011, 01:13 AM
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Damn you XG, I was eating a delicious subway when I read this.
It ruined my meal
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Henry123
post May 31 2011, 03:42 PM
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QUOTE (Tav6 @ May 30 2011, 11:04 PM) *
but how come they look so plasticky ??? embarassedlaugh.gif embarassedlaugh.gif

I believe they had some sort of varnish painted over them.
I remember reading about it last year.
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Henry123
post May 31 2011, 03:55 PM
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QUOTE (XigonCongchua @ May 30 2011, 11:56 PM) *
Now let's talk about other mummies of Vietnam,

Heres another one
http://cruises.about.com/od/southeastasiac...useum-Mummy.htm
http://keralaarticles.blogspot.com/2010/06...of-vietnam.html
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Henry123
post May 31 2011, 03:56 PM
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QUOTE (daxas24 @ May 31 2011, 02:13 AM) *
Damn you XG, I was eating a delicious subway when I read this.
It ruined my meal

At least it wasnt beef jerky that you were chewing on. icon_wink.gif
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