Interesting Facts

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy

A 2,000-year-old mummy of a Chinese woman, Xin Zhui, also known as “Lady Dai,” was preserved in 21 gallons of an “unknown liquid.” With her original hair, organs, eyebrows, and eyelashes intact, the mummy still has blood in her veins. Her skin and ligaments are soft and as flexible as that of a living person.

Xin Zhui, also known as Lady Dai, is a mummified woman from China’s Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) who is still soft to the touch, has natural hair, and has ligaments that still bend, much like a living person. She is more than 2,000 years old. She is regarded as the most expertly preserved human mummy in recorded history. This is her incredible tale.

The Shocking Discovery Of Xin Zhui, The “Lady Dai” Mummy

When workers were excavating close to an air raid shelter outside of Changsha in 1971, they almost literally stumbled upon Xin Zhui’s enormous tomb. More than 1,000 priceless artifacts, including make-up, toiletries, hundreds of pieces of lacquerware, and 162 carved wooden figures that represented her staff of servants, were kept in her funnel-shaped crypt. Even a meal was prepared for Xin Zhui to eat in the afterlife.

While the intricate structure was impressive and had remained intact for almost two thousand years, what really astounded researchers was Xin Zhui’s physical state.

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 1
The face of Xin Zhui, still in astonishing condition after several millennia. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

When she was discovered, it was discovered that she had retained the skin of a living person, which was still supple and elastic to the touch. Her original hair, including that on her head and inside of her nostrils, as well as her eyebrows and eyelashes, were discovered to be in tact.

Baffled Researchers Begin Studying The World’s Best-Preserved Mummy

She died in 163 BC, so scientists were able to perform an autopsy, during which they found that her 2,000-year-old body was in comparable condition to someone who had just passed away.

But as soon as the oxygen in the air touched Xin Zhui’s body, her preserved corpse was compromised, and she started to deteriorate. As a result, the pictures of Xin Zhui that we currently possess do not do its initial discovery justice.

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 2
A recreation of Xin Zhui, a.k.a. Lady Dai. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers also discovered that she had all of her organs, and that type-A blood was still present in her veins. Her official cause of death—a heart attack—was revealed by the presence of clots in these veins.

Gallstones, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and liver disease were among the additional illnesses that were discovered throughout Xin Zhui’s body.

Pathologists even discovered 138 undigested melon seeds in Lady Dai’s stomach and intestines while examining her. It was safe to assume that the melon was her final meal, consumed just before the heart attack that ultimately claimed her life, as such seeds typically take an hour to digest.

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 3
The hands of Xin Zhui, eerily frozen in time for centuries. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

How Is Xin Zhui’s Lady Dai Mummy So Well-Preserved?

Researchers give credit to Lady Dai’s elaborate and airtight tomb. Xin Zhui was buried almost 40 feet underground, inside the smallest of four pine box coffins, each one set inside the other (imagine a Matryoshka set, where the dead body of an ancient Chinese mummy is revealed once you reach the smallest doll).

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 4
After more than 2,000 years, the feet of Lady Dai still hold their shape. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Her body was discovered in 21 gallons of a “unknown liquid” that was tested and found to be mildly acidic and contain traces of magnesium while being wrapped in twenty layers of silk fabric.

Her eternal chamber was sealed with clay and packed with moisture-absorbing charcoal to keep out oxygen and bacteria that cause decay. A thick layer of paste-like soil covered the floor. After that, three more feet of clay were used to seal the top, keeping water from entering the building.

The search for immortality

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 7
The perfectly designed tomb of Xin Zhui (Photo: Metaweb)

The ancient Chinese had a fascination with the afterlife.

It was crucial for them to keep the body as intact as possible in order to enter the underworld.

After she passed away, the body of Xin Zhui was cleaned with wine and flagrant water, both of which have antibacterial properties that prevent the body from decomposing.

Twenty layers of clothing were tightly layered around the body. The corpse was buried in an airtight casket. A second airtight coffin was then placed inside the coffin. There were four coffins surrounding one another.

The Xin Zhui’s coffins were the equivalent of a Russian nesting doll.

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 8
Three out of four nesting coffins from inside Xin Zhui’s tomb (Image: Hunan Provincial Museum)

The coffin was buried 12 meters (40 feet) underground, in a place with a constant, cool temperature. A layer of white clay and charcoal that was 3 feet thick (1 meter) served as the coffin’s protective covering.

The body was discovered floating in an unidentified translucent liquid by the scientists when they opened the innermost coffin.

Scientists were unable to determine what kind of liquid it was; all they knew about it was that it was acidic. However, the scientists who touched the substance endured months of hand rashes.

Who Was Xin Zhui Before She Became The Mummy We Know Today?

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 5
Drawing of the burial chamber of Xin Zhui. Photo credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

In contrast to her burial and death, we know relatively little about Xin Zhui’s life.

Li Cang (the Marquis of Dai), a prominent Han official, was married to Lady Dai, who passed away at the young age of 50 due to her penchant for excess. Her fatal cardiac arrest was thought to have been caused by a lifetime of obesity, a lack of exercise, and a lavish and too much diet.

Xin Zhui And The Story Of The Stunningly Intact Lady Dai Mummy 6
Widely called the best-preserved mummy in the world, Lady Dai has baffled experts by staying so intact after millennia. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

She may still have the best-preserved corpse in history, though. The primary subject of their research into corpse preservation is Xin Zhui, who is currently kept in the Hunan Provincial Museum.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x