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2.5 Reintroduction and Diffusion of Mummification Practices in Taiwan, 1959-2011 (2011)


For reasons that are not entirely clear, the practice of mummifying corpses of religious figures had died out in Taiwan by the 1920s. The extent to which this was the result of Japanese colonial policy—one mummy had been apprehended in 1912, and mummifications practices were proscribed in Japan proper by this time—remains to be explored. In the 1950s, refuge monks from China re-introduced the practice of mummifying certain corpses to Taiwan. The practice has spread, and from 1959 to 2011, there has been a roughly 143% increase in the number of mummies per capita. Why did mummy production catch on in Taiwan? This article shows—or in its current, abbreviated state, simply adumbrates—how prior cultural schemas, the prestige of the initial transmitters, the technical know-how of a lineage of sculptors, and media, transportation, and communication networks explain much of this outbreak.

Reference: Gildow, Douglas. 2011. “The Reintroduction and Diffusion of Mummification Practices in Taiwan, 1959-2011.” On Réseau Asie & Pacifique [website]. Theme E: Social Organization and Rituals. Panel E2: Invisible Deaths and Hidden Corpses in Japan and Taiwan.

Related Links:

  1. Download the full article.
  2. Youtube video clip on Kexiang, the oldest extant mummy in Taiwan (from PBS Taiwan).
  3. Youtube video clip on Cihang, on journey of a replicate body of his (a wooden statue) being sent from Taiwan to China. Here we see a new statue made to look like a mummy that was originally modeled to look similar to a statue.
  4. Youtube video clip on pet mummification. A way to make money by preserving corpses, courtesy of Summum Corporation (from National Geographic).
  5. New York Times “Body Factories” news clip (8 Aug. 2006), on a German-Chinese joint venture that has also found a way to make money by producing and exhibiting plastinated corpses.


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