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Master Ci Xian, or Cixian Sanzang, was a Buddhist Master who lived approximately 1000 years ago. He was active during the Liao dynasty, which extended from 907 to 1125.

Historic records identify him as a respected monk who travelled from India to the ancient Chinese Kingdom of Khitan to spread the philosophy of Buddhism. These records recount his translation of ten major Buddhist sutras, or Buddhist scriptures, into Chinese characters. These scriptures were then engraved onto stone tablets. Later in life, he was designated as the Buddhist Master of Khitan by the ruling king of the time.

Upon his death, his disciples preserved his body. At one point, however, it was lost. In the 1970s, his remains were found in an unidentified cave. Since 2011, his mummy has been worshipped in the Dinghui Temple in Wu'an, China.

His body expected to remain in the Dinhui Temple until the end of 2017, at which it will be relocated to the Shendu Temple.


Master Du of the Dinghui Temple describes ancient Buddhist mummification as a natural process.

Buddhist Masters are believed to know when they are near death. They will then tell their disciples to either cremate or preserve them. If, like Master Ci Xian, they choose to be cremated, the disciples leave the remains in a large jar with natural substances for three years. After this period, they will remove the body.

It is believed that if the master has achieved a spiritual level, the body will not be rotten when removed. Buddhists believe that monks generate energy in their body as they cultivate in an attempt to reach enlightenment. The accumulation of this energy is said to transform the body.

The remains are then covered with a special sticky rice paste that produces a metallic effect.

In 2016, the temple decided to have the remains gilded with gold paint and foil as a gesture of respect. Before painting, they covered the body in lacquer for protection. The image to the right is a photo of the remains prior to the painting.


On July 8, 2017, CT scans revealed that the full skeleton and brain were intact. Other parts of the skeleton were well-preserved. These scans were performed by researchers during a medical evaluation.

Dr. Wu Yongqing, who oversaw the examination, remarked that; "We can see his bones are as healthy as a normal person's [...] The upper jaw, the upper teeth, the ribs, the spine and all the joints are all complete [...] It's incredible to see this."


Chen, M. (2017, July 17). Perfectly Preserved Body Found of 1,000-year-old Buddhist Master Ci Xian. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from

The golden mummy: Incredible pictures show the perfectly preserved gilded body of 1,000-year-old Buddhist Master Ci Xian. (2017, July 13). Dailymail. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from

Lewis, C. (2017, July 19). X-ray Scan Reveals 1,000-year-old Mummified Remains of Indian Buddhist Monk in China. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from