Buddha’s Skull Discovered in Ancient Crypt in China

Jul 01, 2016 04:05 AM EDT

Archaeologists have discovered a skull bone of the Buddha in an ancient crypt in China.

The researchers excavating in the area found the bone of the revered Siddharta Gautama or the Buddha inside a model of a stupa, which is a Buddhist meditation shrine. The 1,000-year-old meditation shrine was found inside a stone chest in an ancient crypt beneath the Grand Bao'en Temple in Nanjing, China.

According to scientists, who published their research in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics, the ancient stupa contained remains of Buddhist saints, including a skull with inscriptions saying the bone belonged to the Buddha himself.

The stupa model was made of sandalwood, silver and gold, and is studded with gemstones of crystals, glass, agate and lapis lazuli.

The stupa model was a stone chest, and inscriptions engraved on the chest's surface indicate that it was constructed during the time of Emperor Zhenzong of the Song Dynasty, 997-1022 A.D. Inscribed on the stupa are the names of the people who donated money and material for the construction of the model and those who were involved in the construction, Live Science reports.

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According to the archaeologists, while the inscriptions say that the skull belonged to the Buddha, it was not confirmed whether the bone really belonged to him.

The stupa model was 117 cm tall and 45 cm wide, and was encased in an iron box. The iron box, in turn, was stored in a stone chest.

An inscription on the stone chest, which was written by a man named Deming 1,000 years ago, indicated that he is "the Master of Perfect Enlightenment, Abbot of Chengtian Monastery [and] the Holder of the Purple Robe," as translated in the journal.

The Buddha's Burial

Siddharta Gautama was believed to have been born in 5th century B.C., a spiritual teacher who is recognized by Buddhists of this age as the Supreme Buddha. His teachings are contained in the Tripitaka, the canon of Buddhist thought.

According to the inscription, after the Buddha's body was cremated in India, King Ashoka, the ruler of India at that time, ordered the remains of the Buddha to be preserved in one of the 84,000 shrines. China received 19 of these shrines, including the one where the skull bone was encased.

The temple where the bone was kept was destroyed during a series of wars 1,400 years ago, but was rebuilt by Emperor Zhenzong who also ordered for the remains to be buried in an underground crypt.

In a press statement published in Telegraph UK, Qi Haining, head of the Nanjing Museum, said that the pagoda is unique as it is the only one that contains parts of the Buddha's skull.

But according to Haining, there would be a lengthy process before cases could be opened for fear of damaging the contents. The same happened in 2001 when a relic of Buddha's hair was found and authorities declined to open the welded box.

Buddhist monks have interred the remains in Qixia Temple in China following the excavation.

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