500-Year-Old Corpse Uncovered in Shanghai

November 9, 2006 Updated: November 9, 2006

An ancient corpse was unintentionally uncovered on a farm in Songjiang district in Shanghai when local farmers were leveling their farming land. The corpse was determined to be 500 years old and was well-preserved. Some of the corpse's joints are still moveable and his skin feels moist, soft, elastic and cold to the touch.

According to a report by Beijing Science & Technology News on August 5, 2000, experts from Songjiang Museum of Shanghai determined that the grave opened by the excavating machine is likely an ancient grave. The corpse is a male wearing ancient clothes, and his body is well preserved. When Yang Kun, a staff member of Shongjiang museum, touched the corpse, he was shocked to find that the body was extremely cold. Yang claimed it felt as if he put his hands into a refrigerator.

Yang found a commandment certificate in a pocket of the clothes. A commandment certificate is an identification document for Buddhists. When traveling, Buddhists go to a temple for lodging and they need to identify themselves using the certificate. The name on the certificate is Yang Fuxin. The certificate was issued in the 4th year of Zhengtong in the Ming Dynasty, or in the year 1439. Experts preliminarily determined that that certificate belonged to the dead.

Based on examination, Yang is estimated to be 75 to 80 years old. Experts also found Yang's palms to be relatively large, and the bones of his hand are larger than average, indicating that Yang may have practiced martial arts.

Previously, most of the dry corpses dug out from earth came from Gobi desert or other desert areas; however Yang's corpse was preserved well in Shanghai, a humid area. Moreover, Yang's coffin was made of cement, a common material used in the Ming Dynasty at Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, and filled with ground water.

The well-preserved condition of the corpse in such an environment still puzzles the experts.