Chinese villagers are taking legal action to reclaim a mummified buddha from a Dutch collector.
They believe the mummy was stolen from their village 20 years ago, and have brought the case to Sanming Intermediate People’s Court in southeast China’s Fujian Province, which has accepted the suit.
A lawyer hired by the villagers from Yangchun Village in Fujian, will head to the Netherlands to file another lawsuit at a Dutch court.
The mummy is known as “Zhanggong Zushi”, a local man who became a monk in his 20s and won fame for helping people treat disease and spreading Buddhist belief some 1,000 years ago.
When he died at the age of 37, his body was mummified and encased in the statue, in which it remains.
The statue was displayed in a “Mummy World” exhibition which opened in October last year in Hungary.
It was scheduled to be on show until May 17, but was pulled from the exhibition following allegations it was stolen.
According to the lawyers, the suit in China is an infringement case that calls for the Dutch collector to stop the infringement act and return the Buddha.
While the suit in Netherlands is a property case that calls for the collector to return the village property.
The villagers have negotiated with the Dutch collector both officially and privately, for the return of the statue, which they say was worshipped as a god in the village temple for around 1,000 years.
In the temple, local people still display the statue’s hat and clothes left behind after it disappeared.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Dutch collector said he wants to give the mummy to a large and celebrated temple in China instead of a small one, and he demands a “decent” sum of money for compensation.
He said he bought the mummy for about 20,000 U.S. dollars in the 1990s, and he has been offered 20 to 30 million dollars by other collectors for it.
The Dutch collector questioned whether the mummy was the same one lost from Yangchun, citing differences between the left hand and head and their description in Chinese accounts.
He said more research is needed.