Buddha's hair' found in China

By Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai   BBC News
Friday, 16 March, 2001

Archaeologists in China say they have unearthed a miniature gold box
believed to contain the hair of the

The box, thought to have been buried for more than a thousand years, was
dug up during the excavations of a
famous ruined pagoda in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

The excavation has attracted much media interest in China.

But some experts say it should never have been carried out.

Media frenzy

China's Communist-controlled media have been in a frenzy of excitement
over the discovery of the apparent
Buddhist relic.

Journalists waited for days outside the local museum in Hangzhou for
experts to open the heavy iron case
which contained it.

The case was found in a cellar under the ruins of the famous Leifeng
Pagoda, which was built in 976 AD but collapsed after repeated attacks
by relic thieves in 1924.

China's official news agency said the case contained a 35cm-high gilded
silver pagoda, carved with scenes
from the story of the Buddha Sakyamuni.

Buddha's hair

Visible inside the pagoda is a tiny gold box, which experts say is
believed to contain the hair of the Buddha - but the Shanghai Daily
newspaper quoted experts as saying the box would not be opened for fear
of damaging it.

The former head of the local cultural relics protection bureau was
quoted in another newspaper, the Guangzhou
Daily, as saying he had opposed the excavation in the first place.

He said he feared that the relics could not be properly protected.

Reports said this is thought to be the second piece of the Buddha's hair
found in China - a similar relic was
discovered in the north of the country in the 1970s.

Pieces of the Buddha's hair are also believed to be contained in temples
in Burma, Cambodia and Thailand.

And a relic revered as a tooth of the Buddha, normally kept in a Beijing
temple, attracted huge crowds when it
was put on display in Hong Kong in May 1999.

Archaeologists have yet to uncover any trace however of the Lady White,
a mythical figure who according to
Chinese legend is entombed under the Leifeng pagoda.