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Dutch collector: China needs to pay $20 million to retrieve mummified monk

By Huang Jin (People's Daily Online)    16:31, November 13, 2015

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

Dutch private collector Oscar van Overeem, who owns the misappropriated 1,000-year-old Buddha statue with a mummified monk inside, has said he will return the relic to China in return for 20 million dollars, a fee to cover his investment in conserving and researching the statue.

A Chinese statue of the Buddha with the mummified body of a Buddhist monk inside has been on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest, Hungary since March 3, 2015. According to the Chinese characters written on the base of the statue, the body inside belonged to Chinese Buddhist monk Zhang Liuquan who lived around A.D. 1100.

Zhang lived during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). He became a monk in his 20s and won fame for helping people treat disease and spread Buddhist belief. When he died at the age of 37, his body was mummified and local people made a statue, putting the mummy inside. The statue was worshipped in the village temple ever since until it was stolen in 1995.

According to Dutch private collector Oscar van Overeem, he bought the statue for 40,000 Dutch guilders ($20,544) in 1996 from a collector in Amsterdam who had acquired it in Hong Kong.

At first, Oscar van Overeem had reached a tentative agreement to donate the mummy to "a major Buddhist temple" near Yangchun village in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, where the statute was likely to be the personification of Patriarch Zhanggong. However, he seems to have changed his mind recently, seeking compensation of 20 million dollars instead.

According to the Federation of Chinese Social Organizations in Hungary, retrieving a mummified Buddha is different from retrieving a Buddha statue, as a body carries more implications for the Chinese: reverting to origin after life passes away is just as natural as fallen leaves returning to the roots.

There is only one month left for the villagers to take legal actions, as the 20 year period in which cases can be brought against acquisitions is about to expire according to Dutch law. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Bianji)

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