The Dutch owner of an ancient Buddha statue containing a mummified monk said he plans on returning the artifact to China within a month, after residents from a village in Fujian province claimed that the relic had been stolen from one of its temples 20 years ago.
The statue made headlines earlier this year when researchers in the Netherlands discovered the remains of a nearly 1,000-year-old mummy concealed inside of it during a CT scan.
The “living Buddha” statue was on temporary display at a history museum in Budapest when villagers in Yangchun, Fujian province saw pictures of the relic in the news and noticed that it looked similar to a statue that had allegedly gone missing from a local temple nearly two decades ago.
Researchers at the Fujian Cultural Relic Bureau soon after told reporters that it had been stolen from the temple. They claimed that the remains belonged to a famous cowherd named Zhanggong Zushi, and that the statue had been worshipped by villagers until it disappeared from the temple in 1995.
Architect Oscar van Overeem purchased the relic for 40,000 Dutch guilders in 1996 from a collector in Amsterdam, who had bought it in Hong Kong. The architect says he ‘has proof’ that the statue did not come from the Yangchun temple.
“It comes from a temple not far from the village,” van Overeem was quoted as saying in a People’s Daily report. “But of course it is Chinese and comes from Fujian province.”
He said the statue will be enshrined in a temple near Yangchun, but the date of its arrival has not yet been decided.