Mummy Museums in Asia
Beijing: Tiananmen Square contains the mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Inside is the preserved body of Chairman Mao. Visitors can line up and walk past the body of the former head of state.
Ürümchi: The Provincial Museum (Xinjiang Province) has an excellent collection of well-preserved, Caucasian 2000-4000 year old mummies. If you are unable to visit this museum, the two best books about these mummies are these:
The Mummies of Ürümchi by Elizabeth Barber: This book takes a thoughtful look at some of the Caucasian mummies (dating from 2000 B.C.) that have been found in western China. These include Cherchen Man (the Man with Ten Hats, as Barber refers to him), Cherchen Woman, two other women, and a three-month-old infant as well as the Beauty of Loulan, among others.
Barber is a textile expert (and an expert writer) who was able to study the mummies and their fabrics for a brief period of time. Through her vivid descriptions and explanations, the well-dressed (and quite colorful) mummies come back to life. The abundant (and therefore a true treasure trove) ancient textiles themselves, well preserved in the dry salty region, seem to suggest a related history to the Celts: yes, some of these mummies found in Asia were buried with Scottish-type plaid fabric.
Especially touching are the stories Barber is able to piece together about the mummies as people. For example, Cherchen Man and the three woman (Cherchen Woman is thought to be his wife, but this may be an unwarranted conclusion) were buried first--perhaps dying in an epidemic. Their burial place was sealed; shortly afterwards, the seal was broken and the baby buried there. Was this the infant of Cherchen Man and Woman? A nursing bottle made from a sheep's udder was placed beside the infant's body. Did the surviving members of the tribe try to nurse Cherchen baby back to health after his parents had died? Another story concerns an eight-year-old who was found near the same area as the Beauty of Loulan. The blanket wrapping him was clearly made by a young woman (his mother?) who seemed to be making one of her first major pieces of cloth (it was more like a sampler than a consistently-made piece of cloth).
Barber speculates that migrant tribes from the area that is present-day Iran moved east and west, taking with them their knowledge of sheepherding and weaving. They appear to have come to western China, Barber determined, in at least two different migrations, about 1000 years apart. From Ireland to Turkestan, what especially connects the tribes were their weaving techniques.
The Tarim Mummies by J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair: This book will not disappoint anyone who wants to know more about the 500+ mostly-Caucasian mummies found in this part of the world and expects the photos to go along with it. Make no mistake: their book is well-written, but it is written in the scholarly "we" in most chapters, which serves to distance the reader a bit. The best chapters are the ones that are most personal: an introduction and two chapters on the mummies themselves.
These two exciting chapters include well-detailed descriptions (often with drawing and photos) of specific mummies that have been found and not always well-publicized. These include the Beauty of Loulan (called Korarän here), the Scream Baby (with its poignant and disturbing story) and a number of mummies found in Subeshi (part of the Turpan group). These latter mummies include three "witches" (so named because of their tall thin hats--quite unusual and well-displayed in the book). The most recent discovery, as of the book's publication, was the Yingpän mummy which featured a face mask, possibly made from layers of hemp.
In Japan you will find a number of Buddhist mummies and many mummies of strange or even mythical creatures. Are they real? That's for you to decide.
Aomori: The Hachinohe Museum displays the mummy of a Tengu. According to softpedia.com, this is a "sort of an air god, a personification that resembles a man and a bird. While the skull is clearly humanoid, it has feathers, and the feet are those of a bird. The artifact originated in the southern parts of the country, but was passed from one family to another until it reached its current location. Some say that the mummy is that of Nambu Nobuyori, a clan leader that ruled vast lands in the mid-18th century, but the claims have yet to be verified."
Imari: The Matsuura Brewery displays a kappa (or river demon) mummy.
Iwate: The Yūzanji Temple displays a Raijū mummy. This supernatural creature was believed to live in clouds and could throw lightning at Earth during thunderstorms.
Kanazawa: The Zengyōji Temple features the mummy of a three-headed demon-like creature. According to softpedia.com, "Two adjoined faces adorn the front of the skull, while a third one is located at the back, in what looks like something that has come out of a childhood nightmare. Today, the creature is shrined at the temple, and is revered as a sacred being, despite the fact that it made its discoverer sick and that the man only got cured when the mummy was brought to the temple."
Osaka: The Zuiryūji Temple exhibits a Kappa (or river demon) mummy.
Usa: The Daijōin Temple exhibits a demon mummy. According to the Phantoms & Monsters blog, "The mummy is said to have once been the treasured heirloom of a noble family. But after suffering some sort of misfortune, the family was forced to get rid of it. The demon mummy changed owners several times before ending up in the hands of a Daijōin temple parishioner in 1925. After the parishioner fell extremely ill, the mummy was suspected of being cursed. The parishioner quickly recovered from his illness after the mummy was placed in the care of the temple. It has remained there ever since. Today the enshrined demon mummy of Daijōin temple is revered as a sacred object.
Yamagata: The Dainichibo Temple features a Buddhist mummy.