The Coolest Mummified Monk in the World

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Image: Igor Bilic
Visitors are welcomed with cool shades and a deathly grin.

The figure sits wrapped in his bright orange monk’s robes, wearing what looks like a wide, toothy grin. Perched above his nose is a pair of dark Ray-Ban sunglasses, completely hiding what’s left of his eyes.

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Image: Luiz Edvardo
Luang Pho Daeng’s original dentures are clearly visible in this close-up shot.

This facial concealment is just as well, though, since the figure’s eyeballs have long since shriveled up and his hollow sockets would be a troubling sight. Yes, this dude may be cool, but he’s also been dead for over 40 years.

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Image: Mrlangeman
Although the mummy’s skin is wrinkled and discolored, its level of preservation is incredible.

The mummified body of deceased monk Luang Pho Daeng sits enclosed in a special glass display case, like a quirky, macabre statue. He is the main attraction at Wat Khunaram, a temple on the Thai island of Ko Samui.

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Image: Jason Eppink
Luang Pho Daeng is just about visible here, sitting among the splendor of the Wat Khunaram temple.

Luang Pho Daeng was once the abbot at this temple. The monk’s body was manipulated into a simple meditative pose following his passing in 1973 at the ripe old age of 79.

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Image: Julian Bound
The temple area that houses the mummified monk was exclusively constructed for him.

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It is believed that Luang Pho Daeng predicted when he would pass away and left instructions detailing what was to be done with his body when the time came. If it decomposed – as one might expect it would in the warm, sticky climate of southern Thailand – he was to be cremated. If, however, his body evinced fewer signs of decomposition, his wish was that it be put on display.

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Image: Andrew Yang
The temple is open in the daytime – fortunately so, since it might be a little too creepy to visit after dark.

Luang Pho Daeng hoped that his preserved corpse would be a source of inspiration to forthcoming generations – an influence on them to act upon Buddhist teachings and so help save themselves from the endless suffering of life.

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Image: Julian Bound
Around the mummy’s display are gifts of fruit, flowers and incense.

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Apparently, Luang Pho Daeng spent the last days of his life in deep meditation, fasting and refraining from speaking. If this is true, it may explain why his body is so surprisingly well-maintained.

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Image: H. KoPP
Luang Pho Daeng’s pose suggests that he is meditating, as he is said to have done just before his death.

Owing to the fact that he didn’t eat and further cut his metabolic rate through meditative breathing, some have suggested that perhaps the monk – intentionally or otherwise – slowed down the decaying process after death.

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Image: Razvan Orendovici
The monk sits in a beautifully ornate part of the temple.

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Indeed, possibly in part down to his final days, Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse looks in remarkably good condition. The skin may appear a little gray and dried out, but that is to be expected of a body that has been dead for over four decades. Incredibly, the mummy’s open mouth even shows off the monk’s original dentures.

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Image: Julian Bound
The mummy of Luang Pho Daeng, surrounded by offerings

The mummy is similarly well-preserved internally. Fascinating radiographs of the corpse led to the discovery that while Luang Pho Daeng’s organs have dried up, they are still relatively undamaged. Plus, the monk’s dead body even hosts new life, as geckos have crawled in and laid eggs in its hollows.

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Image: Per Meistrup/Wikipedia
Amazingly, the monk remains sitting upright – even a number of decades after his death.

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Self-mummification is not unheard of in Buddhism. Indeed, throughout the years in different parts of Asia, the preserved bodies of monks and nuns have been revered as religious relics.

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Image: Sergey
Flowers add a touch of color to Luang Pho Daeng’s place of rest.

The belief is that these mummified figures are the remains of holy people who were able to halt the decaying process after death, sometimes by putting themselves through difficult and painful procedures.

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Perhaps the most hardcore self-mummification method happened in Japan. Here, some monks would supposedly prepare for death by eating a meager diet of bark, roots and seeds and imbibing a tea made from toxic tree sap.

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Image: Julian Bound
Although the mummified monk may seem grisly to some, it is held in great respect among locals.

When they were ready, a number of these monks would, it is said, even be buried alive in a solid salt-filled tomb, where their bodies would mummify. Compared to this, Luang Pho Daeng’s reported methods of physical self-preservation through fasting and meditation don’t seem quite so extreme.

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Image: Julian Bound
Visitors stop by the site to pay their respects to the mummified former abbot.

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While his death may be captivating, Luang Pho Daeng’s life began ordinarily enough. He was born in 1894 on the island of Ko Samui, off Thailand’s east coast.

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Image: Karen Green
It’s said that the monk’s final days may have contributed to the remarkable preservation of his body after death.

As is common for Thai men, he spent part of his twenties as an ordained Buddhist monk before disrobing, getting hitched and fathering children – in his case, six of them.

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Image: Julian Bound
The sunglasses are a more recent addition to the monk’s outfit.

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At 50 years old, Luang Pho Daeng had no more kids to raise and decided to re-enter the monastery – a practice not unheard of for Buddhists in Southeast Asia.

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Image: Julian Bound
A plaque at the temple tells visitors about Luang Pho Daeng’s life.

It was during this period that he was given the monastic moniker Phra Kru Samathakittikhun, studied in Bangkok, and returned to Ko Samui to begin concentrated meditation time in a cave on the island.

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Image: Mrlangeman
A close-up reveals that Luang Pho Daeng still possesses a reasonable amount of hair.

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Luang Pho Daeng’s final years were spent as an abbot among his peers at the Wat Khunaram temple. Known for his meditation and teaching skills, Luang Pho Daeng is said to have been esteemed by a substantial following. Arguably, though, his fame has become even greater after his death.

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Image: Jason Eppink
Luang Pho Daeng is not the only mummified monk nearby, although he is arguably the best known.

Despite the presence of a number of other similar mummies in the area, Luang Pho Daeng remains one of his nation’s most well-known mummified monks. The temple in which he is held welcomes all visitors – whether calling for spiritual reasons or out of plain curiosity – and only asks that people show the necessary respect for the monk’s remains and the holy place of worship.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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