Chinese Lady Dai leaves Egyptian mummies for dead
By Yu Chunhong (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2004-08-25 08:59
People all over the world think of Egypt when talking about body preservation and mummies, but how many people know that the best preserved bodies in the world are actually in China?
The body of Lady Dai [special to chinadaily.com.cn]
According to some scientists, what the ancient Chinese were able to achieve in body preservation leaves the Egyptians in their dust. The body of Lady Dai of the Western Han Dynasty, housed in the state of the art Hunan Museum, attracts flocks of visitors every day. When people gaze at the body, they cannot help but wonder, how did they do it?
But from now on, people do not have to travel to China's Changsha Province to pay her the visit, as the archaeology documentary film "Diva Mummy", featuring her and two other almost equally well preserved Han bodies, will debut on the US National Geographic Channel, September 6, 2004, as part of the kick-off of the National Geographic Channel's "Most Amazing Discoveries" series.
The film is a co-production between Natural History New Zealand (NHNZ) and View Point Communications, a production company that is affiliated with the China International Communications Center (CICC), the National Geographic Channel and Arte.
China has always fascinated the world with its rich culture, and numerous mysteries and treasures buried deep under the earth and the sea. The Diva Mummy invites viewers to ponder one of forensic archaeology's greatest mysteries: How several bodies buried in central China over 2,000 years ago came to be the best preserved ancient human remains ever found?
The Mawangdui mummy
Posted 25 August 2004 - 01:20 AM
"We Vandals get blamed for stuff that was actually done by some errant Lombard or Visigoth"
"Nationalism is much about forgetting as it is about remembering"
China historical vacation 2011 photos and videos: http://www.chinahist...na-trip-photos/
Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:22 AM
"夫君子之行：靜以修身，儉以養德；非淡泊無以明志，非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮
One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang
Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:54 AM
Posted 25 March 2005 - 12:35 AM
I would like to know about the other 2 Han 'mummies' mentioned but I suspect the situation will be the same.
Please note this isn’t a mummy or a truly preserved corpse at all. I have seen Lady Xin referred to misleadingly in other articles on Chinese achievements as ‘mummified’ but this isn’t a mummy preserved in the sense of the older Egyptian ones, or even the true Xiajiang mummies which date to Shang, let alone a simple corpse preserved in a peat swamp.
Even the Xianjiang mummies had their jaws tied shut to prevent the tongue swelling grotesquely and forcing out like we see here on lady Xin.
Lady Xin is accidental.
What had preserved Lady Xin are the conditions in her tomb, and not any ‘technique’ of mummification. It is worth noting these articles never outline what the mummification involved, because there was none at all.
I have several pages devoted to this tomb find in one of my texts and it outlines that her wooden coffin, silk clothing, fresh food & meals set out on plates, carved wooden figures & laquerware, cosmetics, seals, bamboo and textiles…and even the food in her stomach and parasites in her intestines all survived.
None of these are ‘mummified’ or preserved. They survived only due to the conditions in the tomb……
‘’’’‘the remarkable state of preservation in which the marquise and her tomb contents were found was evidently due to the dense clay, absorbent charcoal and the unvarying temperature below the earth. Nothing could get in or out of the crypt. Decay causing bacteria trapped inside quickly died….. groundwater could not penetrate…. neither did moisture….the result was a cool highly humid and near sterile environment in which delicate silks and fragile laquerware and the body itself lay untouched by time.’’’’
I have heard elsewhere the when the tomb was hit by workmen a blue gas escaped and they thought it was spirits, but it was organic gas trapped for over 2,000 years.
This tomb was uniquely preserved and the people who buried her where not mummifying her as the tomb conditions alone was the reason. Once exposed to air decay would resume normally.
……..bear in mind more powerful people such as Kings and Emperors of Han had attempts to preserve bodies from decay which involved elaborate jade burial suits.
These failed completely despite the idea that jade stops decay, and the air tight seal of this ladies tomb is just a local condition and not the traditional understanding of what can preserve a corpse during Han.
There is no evidence I know of that this tomb itself was a ‘preservation technique’ different to other such tombs (as it must be incredibly rare
), nor were the Emperors in jade suits so lucky, despite their experts advice.
Many southern Chinese tombs are not so fortunate, being under the water table and clearly flooded when opened (although this can preserve wood too, such as Marquis Yi’s tomb from West Zhou).
Much like the iron age bodies preserved in peat swamps in Europe those that left her there likely had no idea of what was happening after it was finished.
Han ‘mummification’ remains a myth if the facts are looked at.
This article is misleading but not unique, and it’s missing the point of the true worth of the find. Instead of some pure speculation about ‘mummification techniques’ it is the entire contents of the Lady Xin tomb which deserve more mention, such as the 162 wooden servants & musicians, laquered tripods and vessels, combs, brushes, (the most perfect laquerware ever found)…..meals of chicken, fish and pork, fruits and eggs all set out with chopsticks and dinner sets)…and 100 marvelous silk garments of all sorts…coats, robes, skirts, mittens, slippers, undergarments etc..46 rolls of uncut fabric and more. This includes 312 slips of bamboo listing all the goods that were put in the tomb.
Posted 25 March 2005 - 01:18 AM
Posted 25 March 2005 - 10:09 AM
Posted 25 March 2005 - 10:51 AM
Another report came up with this:
That's based on analysis of her skull. No mummy ever looks good - the price of not rotting away is that people thousands of years in the future may get to see you looking uglier than you ever were when alive.
The passage below theorises that Xin Zhui's preservation may have been partly due to a reddish fluid containing cinnabar and mercury that was found in her coffin. She may have been consuming elixirs containing this fluid before she died.
Posted 27 March 2005 - 06:22 PM
Cinnabar. Smells nice.....really. Its a shame neither of these would preserve a corpse, but its just more half truth, without a little further thinking, I have seen about this 'mummy'
She was not mummified so her organs and even her last watermelon meal in her stomach could be studied. Her flesh was pliant.
Lady Xin was overweight, bent and very sick. '....Overweight and out of shape'.
The reconstruction is rather silly as she was an old women when she died...and ill. There are pictures of her on the very silks in her tomb and she is an old bent woman who walks will a cane due to spinal disc degeneration and a deformed spine. She was 5 feet tall. She had TB scarrs in her lungs, gallstones and intestinal parasites. She had a poorly set fracture on her right arm. She had advanced atherosclerosis...caused by fatty diet and sedentary lifestlye.She had given birth in her early life.
Her left coranary artery, the principle blood vessel, was almost totally blocked.
'packets of herbal medicine found in the tomb...cinnamon, magnolia bark and peppercorns for the life threatening condition.......... These traditional remedies for heart disease still prescribed by traditional chinese herbalists-were evidently to no avial....''No doubt about it..cardiologist Tsung O' Cheng 'the lady died of a heart attack''.
Mercury among other things were prescribed to the First Emperor...and these pills likely poisoned him.
Believe me, I have another documentary here on the find...and details of her autopsy. There is NO magic preservative compound or mummifcation. The clothing and food and wood preserved as well as the body were due to the tomb enviroment.
I have found Chinese newspaper articles next to useless for archeaological info and they trumpet some finds unreasonalbly and wth incomplete information. I have noted that other articles on sites I have rather more details of than the actual article will provide wild musings on ancient China that arent borne out by studying better scientific accounts. Their accounts of the Hong Shan Neihuliang site excavated by Guo Dashun in the early 90's and the actual report by Guo on the site are the difference between a political 'feel-good' spin and a unemotional 'let facts speak for themselves'. The newspaper versions were wild and fanciful about the sites nature, and leads to myths about the number of jades found with burials and the type of society there, which is quite wrong in reality compared to the number of graves.
Others figures on sites provided by some Chinese newspapers can be next to useless for a real understanding of the sites in similar ways.
I should be clear I find some very good too! and pictures of excavations or objects in tombs (and stories of tomb robbing) can often be quite fair and truthfull, but others are not. I suggest thinking a little about what these articles about 'mummies' need to take into account a little more than what some newsboy wants to entertain his reader with. (some of the better articles I have I will post here shortly).
This mercury and cinnabar mummy idea will be more halftruth...as it will be her medicine for the afterlife....and poisonous and ineffective (both for as a cure and for mummification).
There was an idea mercury strengthened the body and could help create immortal body parts by replacing internal organs (but it doesn't)......but just like the complex Jade burial suits of the Han emperors the ideas of what preserved a body in Han were quite spurious in ineffective. These burial suits are said to take 10 yars to make, and joined the plates with gold thread or silk, but all that remaines is the suit as the body decays despite the thinking of the time.
It was JADE that thought to preserve bodies, and jade orifice plugs and burial masks exist from West Zhou...and by Han these more complex suits evolved as are found in the royal tombs around Xian, and a famous example in the Han King of Nanyues tomb in Ghuangzhou. There are beautiful matching suits for women too. Quite ineffective unfortunately. I think the Eypgtians can't be relegated to second place for mummification just yet no matter how much 'feel good' factor is involved.
If Chinese mummies need to be studied then the mummies of Xinjiang should be studied, as they are even older...from Shang to Warrign States. The earliest ones are Caucasian, but by the later period CHinese mummies are found in the same graveyeards showing the communities had joined.
The central plains HAn did not mummify, and the article that begun this post is another example of a blending of fact with half truth by some Chinese newspapers, it makes a distorted story with ludicrous claims that Chinese mummification is more advanced than Eypgt.
The author is being liberal with the facts, to put it kindly.
I will re-watch my documentary on the Lady too (although it isnt very nice to watch) but it will just confirm what my quoted text has said. Some of her ineffective Chinese medicine found in the tomb. It is NOT the cause of the preservation, as her pork & fish dinners and silk garments etc. were not taking this medecine as well, and yet they survived in the tomb atmosphere.
Think about it, and beware of some Chinese newspapers for good and fair details of discoveries.
Note, not all tombs were as lucky as this one.
Posted 27 March 2005 - 07:22 PM
The husband, Prime Minister Li Cang, had died 18 years earlier and the son died in the same year as Lady Xin. (around 168BC).
The contents shown of the other 2 tombs were immense wooden coffins and 2 incomplete piles of bone....ribs, a pelvis and a few long bones.
It shows that even the son buried in the same year and the same mound did not have the luck of the clay & charcoal seal to his tomb and he rotted normally.
Further evidence it was the tomb conditions alone are in the pictures I see of the meals left for the LAdy, dessicated meats are stiloll rocognisable, and even the plums and pears look quite intactand just a little withered. Meats could be identified from the bamboo slips that list the tombs contents...although for some reason the listed vessel of horsemeat (a Han favourite) is missing. Some of the meat include deer, dog, beef lips and tongue, chicken drumsticks, fish (carp, bream, perch and mandarin fish), lamb, hare, goose, duck, pheasant, turtledove, sparrow (!), owl, crane, eggs, and spareribs.
Spices and honey, soy and salt, rice, wheat , lentils, lotus root, strawberries, dates, plums, etc etc.
Even the clothing on the wooden servant dummies has survived, the laquerware is lustrous as the day it was sealed inside the crypt.
It is absolutely clear that the crypt condition is what preserved all these items. Her familys tombs even beside her in similar condiotions and depth (which are contemporary) show that her preservation is an act of tremendous luck, and not one the neighbouring tombs shared which must have not have been airtight.
There is much more of informative worth in this tomb for studying the Han period than turning it into a case misguided cultural competition by this ill-informed reporter.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 07:36 PM
Posted 28 June 2005 - 01:38 PM
Egyptians mummified their dead, which implies a manual manipulation of the corpse -- removal of internal organs(brain, heart, liver, lung, etc), drying/salting out the body(dehydraytion), and spice applying on the skin. Combine with the ENVIRONMENTAL condition of their area(hot, dry) preservation of corpses are easily accomplished contrasting with other cultural where their surroundings are more humid and soil is more acidic(desert have sands and rocks mostly duh!)
Preservation of corpses, are the one you mentioned in XingJiang, these golden "mummies" were called as such because they looked like a mummified corpse in Egypt, but the dehhdration/salting/drying effect is not artifical, there were buried according to their nomadic ritual, and the preservation took places by the natural surroundings of their burial sites. Do you call them mummies? To the ordinary public Yes, to the academic no I don't think they are classified that way, well at least they should be called natural mummies to be PC.
So back to the topic, the lady we are talking about here is WELL preserved. It is not dry though as the body exihibit elasticity after almost 2000 years, which to me is simply amazing! If what you say is true about the internal organs and contents of stomach still remain intact then it is even more amazing! Environmental factors may play a great part but there has to be more than that. Why?
human body temp is 37 degree, which is also bacteria's optimal temp(guess why).
24 hrs after a person stop breathing, decomposition already kick started within a person's own body -- by his/her own bacteria/parasites. This is the main reason why mummification won't work if you do not remove the organs!! The only way I know exist to preserve the whole body -- is by liquid nitrogen or intense, short interval freezing shortly after death(within 24hours). The mammoths are examples -- they froze to death by a sudden blizzard while chewing flowers in the tundra, became a frozen block in a matter of hours.
Here, the lady corpse is obviously not frozen, the mysterious liquid which I cannot confirm some sourse say they found in her coffin is possibly the key. Did she consume a potion(which is unlikely to be 6 gallons of elixir just happen to have preservation effect, try drinking formalin)? Was she prepared differently than her husband due to a special liquid applied to her coffin? We will never know.
One thing of note is that mercury, which is the only liquid metal you see at room temp, does have a very good preservation effect, at even low concentration, mercury is extremely toxic to both humans, insects and bacteria. heated mercury oxidized and become Mercury Oxide which is also a poisonous gas! If the liquid surrounding the corpse's tomb has a high concentration of mercury when it was unearthed -- think of the concentration 2000 years ago!!!
Finally, if you talk about a preserved corpse as a mummy then lady Ma should be classified as a mummy then, whether she is an artifical mummy or a natural mummy remain to be seen. There are natural mummies in Chile also and along the Andies, Just because lady ma is chinese does not kick her out of the "best preserved mummies" contest in the world. Academics don't care about such claims anyway.
I do think she is the best preserved human remain today, according to my definition of what a mummy is.
She IS the best preserved human body from that period, up until modern times at least.
If you guys could provide some info on the "Stone Monk" from the Tang dynasty, which is about 1000 years later, she would have a competitor. The "Stone Monk" was smuggled to Japan during WWII, the temple chief murdered, and he is now being shown in a coastal city of Japan, but I am not sure. I really do hate the Japanese though, even if you discount the WWII war crimes, crimes such as these are worth "10000" deaths
Posted 28 June 2005 - 03:19 PM
She was so ugly and her belly were coming out, her lips busted and her teeth also protruding.
It said on the guide that the Chinese Mummification didn't remove the internal organs. The bacteria inside produced great amount of gas and the pressure is what pushed out her belly, then opened up her mouth and busted her teeth.
Oh, i forget, the gas also pushed out her eye balls.
Edited by naruwan, 28 June 2005 - 03:20 PM.
Posted 29 June 2005 - 12:37 PM
SO there was decomposition immediately after her death, starting from the internal organs. You can say that they didn't perpare(or the body wasn't prepare) well though as its been 2000 years dude what do u expect?
Bacterial decomposition starts within hours after death and is extremely hard to avoid!! Try preparing a 500lb cow with organs still inside!, one afternoon, at 25-35 degree range is enough to foul the whole carcass.
We as of 2005 still do not have a good way to stop bodies from decoposing short of deep freezing! And profusion of formaline works best with internal oragns removed or combined with a mechanical Pump, otherwise fixative just don't get into the oragns to do the job right!
As a scientist I define perfect fixation of tissue by complete perfusion of the bodies blood vessels by fixatives and also complete difusion of fixative to the tissues of mucles and organs(just like blood going through ur entire body while u r living)
Lady Ma's condition is marvelous given the situation -- not that I want to make out with her! But she body is not far from perfectly preserved, if u compare her to egyptian mummies. The better ones would be found with global warming getting worse and u start seeing frozen dead from blizzards in Seberia I guess.
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