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Disputed Buddha statue with mummified monk inside withdrawn by Dutch owner

BUDAPEST, March 20 (Xinhua) -- A Buddha statue that conceals the remains of a monk who turned himself into a mummy was withdrawn from the Hungarian Natural History Museum by its Dutch owner in Budapest on Friday.

The statue was the centerpiece of the "Mummy World" exhibition that opened last October and was originally scheduled to be on display till May 17.

The museum's spokeswoman Monika Kiss-Stefan told Xinhua that the Dutch had not yet given any reason for this decision.

A shipping company took the statue away Friday afternoon, Kiss-Stefan said. "I was shocked and I regret it."

The Hungarian Natural History Museum borrowed the Buddha statue from the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands. But it belongs to a Dutch private collector who bought it in 1996.

Ildiko Szikossy, an anthropologist working in the museum, told Xinhua that the Dutch museum called the Hungarian museum just before Friday noon, saying the owner decided to withdraw the statue and the car was on the way to the museum. The owner didn't appear, she said.

The statue's secret was revealed gradually in recent years. A CT scan done at the Meander Medical Center in Amsterdam last year found that inside the statue was a mummy of a 30-40-year-old Buddhist monk who lived around 1100 AD. The monk sits on a pillow that dates to 300 years later.

Chinese characters are written on the side of the pillow which was displayed in the Hungarian Natural History Museum. According to the characters, the monk's name was Zhang Liuquan.

Villagers living in Yangchun, a village in China's southeastern province of Fujian, claimed that this Buddha statute was the one stolen from their village's temple in 1995, Chinese media reported recently.

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