Zhiyi is traditionally known as the fourth patriarch of the Tiantai tradition of Buddhismin but is generally considered as the founder. Zhiyi is a Mahayana Buddhist monk who lived in China. It is Chappell who says that Zhiyi: "...provided a religious framework which seemed suited to adapt to other cultures, to evolve new practices, and to universalize Buddhism [2]."   

Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Śramaṇa Zhiyi
Age 538–597 CE
Sex Male
Status Noble
Height unknown
Culture Buddhism
Date(s) 538–597 CE
Current Location
Location China
Catalog #


Born with the surname Chen in Huarong District, Jing Prefecture, Zhiyi left home and became a monk at the age of 18 after the loss of his parents. His title is traditionally Sramana Zhiyi which links him to the tradition of Indian ascetism. He is famous for being the first in Chinese Buddhism history to complete clasification of Buddhist teachings.


The Chinese Buddhist Monks practised self-mummification (Sokushinbutsu), a process where one becomes a mummy while still alive. This process takes approximately 3,000 days for turning an ordinary body into a mummy's. This process was heavily influenced by diet, removing wheat, rice, and soybeans. Instead, Zhiyi ate nuts, berries, pine needles and tree bark. Through this process, the body would be starved of nutrients, eliminating fat and moisture and this would lead to preserving the body in the mummified form.


At the age of 23, he received his most important teachings from his teacher Nanyue Huisi, a meditation master from the years 560-567 CE. After learning from Huisi, Zhiyi spent time working in the southern capital of Jiankang until 575 CE. Then Zhiyi travelled to Tiantai mountain to study with a group of disciples, working on adapting various Indian meditation principles into a system of self-cultivation practise. Lastly, Zhiyi travelled back to Jinling, where he completed his monumental commentarial works on the Lotus Sutra.


There is no known pathological issues when looking at the mummificated body of Zhiyi.

Additional Info

Zhiyi is regarded as the first major figure to make a significant break from the Indian tradition, to form an indigenous Chinese system.

External Links

1. Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). "Tiantai Zhiyi", in Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 911. ISBN 9780691157863.

2. Chappell, David W. (1987). 'Is Tendai Buddhism Relevant to the Modern World?' in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 14/2-3, 247-266. Source: PDF; accessed: 21 November 2017. p.247

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