Plastinated Bodies

On November 19, 2005, “Bodies: The Exhibition” opened in Manhattan, New York City, sponsored by Premier Exhibitions. On display were 22 skinless corpses and 260 real human organ specimens that had tissue fluid extracted and silicone pumped into them.1

One piece of the exhibit features a young mother and her unborn baby. According to Chinese law, pregnant women cannot be sentenced to capital punishment. Who would donate the remains of his unfortunate wife and unborn child to a paid exhibition? Where did these human specimens come from? How did they become exhibits?

Exhibit of a specimen holding his own skin and a mother carrying a baby in her body

This exhibition tours the world and has been shown in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, for a long period of time. In 2006, the New York Times reported that the exhibition had attracted more than 20 million visitors. According to the organizers, the human specimens were provided by Dalian Medical University in China and produced using body plastination technology invented by Gunther von Hagens.2 Sui Hongjin, the deputy director of the Anatomy Department of Dalian Medical University and general manager of the plastination company of Dalian Medical University, explained “no one can recognize their identities.”3

Dalian Plastination Body Plant

Body plastination technology uses silicon, epoxy, and other polymer mixtures to replace fluids in the human body.4 Other than the plastination technology itself, the barrier to creating specimens is the availability of fresh human corpses. According to forensic medicine, the “fresh period” for a human body is just two days.5

In June 2002, Sui Hongjin, Deputy Director of the Anatomy Department at Dalian Medical University, opened a company with another partner named “Dalian Medical University Biology Plastination Ltd.” In 2004, Sui registered another company named “Dalian Hongfeng Biology Ltd.” Its main business is human body specimen manufacturing and exhibition.6

Sui Hongjin could receive fresh corpses from a variety of local sources. The drive from Wang Lijun’s transplant operation in Jinzhou City to Dalian is about four hours. Wang Lijun was, as noted, a protégé and right-hand man to Bo Xilai. Bo was the mayor of Dalian from 1993 to 2000 and later Governor of Liaoning Province in 2002. During this time, he invested one billion RMB to carry out prison expansion and reconstruction throughout the province, and to build new large-scale prison facilities.7 In the vicinity of Sui Hongjin’s corpse factories, there are Liaoning Province Prison No. 3, Dalian Nanguanling Prison, Dalian Labor Camp, and Yaojia Detention Center.

On November 27, 2003, a cover article named “Corpse Factory Investigation” published in the second issue of Orient Outlook8 reported that, in addition to the companies operated by von Hagens and Sui Hongjin in Dalian, there were plastination specimen plants in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Tai’an and elsewhere, and that China had become the world’s largest exporter of human specimens. On August 23, 2012, Southern Metropolis Daily reported that Mainland China has several dozen manufacturers engaged in human plastination.9

Trafficking Human Remains

Trafficking human cadavers has become a business. Plastinated specimens are publicly priced and traded. The Government of China calls for bids on such trades. Here are some examples:

Mudanjiang Medical College, teaching specimens and human services bid announcement10

【Mudanjiang city government Web site – government procurement】
Tender Date: June 30, 2011
Bid announcement: February 15, 2012
The successful supplier list: Dalian Hongfeng Biology Technology Co., Ltd.
The bid price: 997,000 yuan (approximately $150,000 USD)
Tenderer Name: Mudanjiang Municipal Government Procurement Center
Contact: Mr. Feng, Mr. Teng

On May 17, 2006, a college student in northeastern China wrote to,11 “Our tiny, amateurish medical college in Changchun somehow has more bodies and organ specimens than Waseda University in Tokyo. How is it possible that we have accumulated so many corpses and organ specimens in recent years after the Cultural Revolution? I asked the teacher whether these bodies were donated, but the teacher told me not to ask. Later I discovered that in the suburban district of Changchun there is a corpse processing plant. Today in China, do we really have so many cadavers from voluntary donors, so many that we need corpse processing plants? Bodies of infants and young children are also processed there. Are the Chinese parents really so ‘noble’ as to donate the remains of their own deceased infants?”

Sui Hongjin’s Dalian Medical University Biology Plastination Ltd. is active in China’s educational equipment procurement network, to which it sells plastinated specimens of all parts of the human body, such as the digestive system, nervous system, embryonic development, endocrine system, genitourinary (reproductive and urinary organs) system, respiratory system, sensory organs, including “fetuses [of] 10 weeks to 32 weeks.” The company also offers negotiable product prices.12

Introduction of products of Dalian Medical University Biology Plastination Ltd on the website of China’s educational equipment procurement network

Dalian Hongfeng Biology Technology Co., Ltd’s body exhibition in Europe was called The Human Body. From February 2 to July 31, 2012, 200 real human body specimens were on display in Dublin, Ireland.13 Additional exhibits were simultaneously scheduled that year in other European countries. Budapest, Hungary exhibited more than 150 complete corpses from February 24 to May 27.14 From March 10 to June 10, The Human Body was on display in Prague, Czech Republic15 and in Ostend, Belgium from June 16 to September 9.16

For the nine years between 2004 and 2013, Sui Hongjin’s several exhibits toured more than 60 cities in more than 20 countries. The number of visitors topped 35 million.17 In 2005, “Bodies—The Exhibition” in the US had become the main source of earnings for Sui’s partner, Premier Exhibitions.

Claimed Police Sourcing

When asked about the “corpse source” by a reporter from Southern Metropolis Daily, Sui Hongjin, Chairman of Dalian Hongfeng Biology Technology Co., Ltd and director of the Anatomy Department of Dalian Medical University, declared, “The bodies are from [Dalian] Medical University autopsies. The source of origin is indicated as ‘body without record.’”18

According to regulations and autopsy rules issued by China’s Ministry of Health on February 22, 1979, medical colleges can use undocumented corpses remaining unclaimed after a month upon approval of a competent authority or the police department.19 Undocumented corpses must be embalmed if they are to be stored beyond a month before use. Otherwise, in 10 to 23 days after death, the body will have only hair, skin, cartilage and bone left intact.20

The corpses used in the body exhibits had been plastinated while fresh, which is within two days of death.21 The corpses used by Sui Hongjin could not have been undocumented corpses. In August 2012, Sui Hongjin claimed in the Southern Metropolis Daily, “From the first day when Dalian Hongfeng was established, no plastinated specimen we have offered came from death row, there is no one,” and “At present, none of our plastinated human specimens are from donors.” “They come from people who have died in hospital and no one has claimed the bodies.”22

In 2008, at the request of the Attorney General of New York State, Premier Exhibitions posted a disclaimer23 on the exhibition’s official website and at the New York exhibition site, citing “Dalian Hongfeng” as the source of human body specimens.

“This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons.”

Disclaimer by Premier Exhibitions

Excerpt of Conversation with Sui Hongjin, Chairman of Dalian Hongfeng

Below is the translation of a transcript of a call made to Sui Hongjin by an investigator from the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.24 The investigator assumed the identity of a Party investigator and asked Sui about his business operations, including the provenance of the corpses. The call was made in late 2012, a period of great political uncertainty in China, not long after the purge of Bo Xilai. Investigations were being launched into many of Bo’s former colleagues, as well as his wife, Gu Kailai. These conditions would have helped to give Sui Hongjin the impression that he was speaking to a Party disciplinary investigator.

Investigator: What channels served as your main source of bodies?

Sui Hongjin: Dozens of corpses came from Public Security. They were procured by the Public Security Bureau.

Investigator: Then they are from the police. How many cadavers have you received thus far?

Sui Hongjin: I can’t remember now, perhaps dozens…if you come in person to investigate, I will discuss the matter with you. It’s not convenient to talk on the phone.

Investigator: Which Public Security Bureau supplied you?

Sui Hongjin: Dalian, the Dalian Public Security Bureau.

Investigator: So the source of the dead bodies you used was from the Public Security Bureau. Do you know where they got them?

Sui Hongjin: They … how do I put it, this was in 2004, there was once an internal report, a report to the Ministry of Public Security … because for some specific subjects, I only ask for a result. I cannot ask for too much detail … because I know this is a sensitive matter. I’m willing to cooperate with your investigation … if necessary, I can be interviewed, if you need a signed statement, that is not a problem. I stand by what I say.

Chinese Government Auspices

On July 17, 2006, nine Ministries of the Government of China jointly issued the “exit and entry of corpse and cadaver disposal regulations,” prohibiting cadaver trading and the use of dead bodies for commercial activities. The regulations became effective on August 1, 2006.25

Sui Hongjin’s human specimen business was not affected by the regulations. Instead, it began to grow and thrive. On November 23, 2010, Dalian TV reported, “Dalian Hongfeng Biological Technology Co., Ltd. conducts business with more than 100 world-famous museums, and its annual revenue has reached more than 200 million yuan.”26


Part of the display of Dalian Hongfeng the “Mystery of Life Museum”: The Lovers, Womb Fetus, and Mother and Baby Siamese specimens

On December 15, 2008, Dalian Hongfeng Biological Technology Co., Ltd. was selected by the Dalian Municipal Government as one of the “high-tech enterprises” to receive tax incentives. In May 2009, Dalian Hongfeng opened its “Mystery of Life Museum” to the public, touted as “the only comprehensive museum in the world where the first signs of life can be seen.” According to Sui Hongjin, the “exhibition center was funded and supported by the Ministry of Finance and the China Association for Sciences; it was held in high regard and received support from various ministries and provincial and municipal leaders.”27


"Exhibition gives a look inside the human body"
"China Turns Out Mummified Bodies for Displays"
"Beijing held human body exhibit [Photos] Source: Date: April 6, 2004 Author: Nayuan, Luxin"
北京办“人尸展览”[组图] 来源:搜狐网 2004年4月6日 作者:那媛 陆欣
"Human plasticized specimens Source: Rizhao China May 12th, 2004"
人体塑化标本 来源:中国日照网 2004年5月12日
"Forensic – Postmortem Interval/fresh Source:"
死亡时间推断 互动百科
"Sui Hongjin: Ten Years of grinding sword – joys and sorrows Source: China Association for Science and Technology Web site April 20th, 2011"
隋鸿锦:十年磨剑悲欢路 来源:中国科学技术协会官网 2011年04月20日
"Recording of Bo Xilai’s Voice Confirms CCP Brutality Against Falun Gong Source: September 17, 2013 | By He Yu"
薄熙来录音曝光 揭中共掩盖的黑幕 【明慧网 二零一三年八月三十一日/ 荷雨)
"Corpse factory investigation Source: Orient Outlook magazine Date: November 27, 2003"
尸体工厂调查 来源:《瞭望东方》周刊 2003年11月27日
"Dalian Hagens suspected using death-row prisoners for body exhibition Source: Southern Metropolis Daily Date: August 23, 2012"
大连哈根斯疑用死囚尸体做展览 2012年8月23日
"Announcing the bids on the human specimens and Medical Services of Mudanjiang Medical College Source: Mudanjiang city government official Website February 15, 2012"
牡丹江医学院人体教学标本及服务项目中标公告 来源:牡丹江市政府网站 2012年2月15日
"Investigative leads: The Corpse Plant in Changchun Suburb and The Body Specimens Library at an Amateur College Source: Minghui Net May 17, 2006"
调查线索:长春郊区的尸体加工厂和业余大学的尸体标本库 明慧网 2006年5月17日
"Fetuses 10 weeks to 32 weeks Source: China’s educational equipment procurement network August 3rd 2012"
胎儿10周到32周 -《中国教育装备采购网》 2012-08-03
"“World premiere of the Human Body Exhibit – Dublin February 2” (Ireland) By Kathleen Harris, 24th January 2012"
"Multimedia Kft brought The Human Body Exhibit to Budapest HK Exhibitions Inc"
"Human Body exhibit marked by controversy"
"Human Body Exhibition kick off in Belgium"
"Life Mystery Museum, Jinshitan, Dalian Baidu Encyclopedia"
"Dalian-Based von Hagens Plastination Factory Suspected of Using Executed Prisoners’ Corpses in Exhibition Nanfang Metropolis News August 23, 2012 Reporter: Wang Xing Student reporter: Ruan Yang"
大连哈根斯疑用死囚尸体做展览 来源:南方都市报 2012-08-23
"Notice from Ministry of Health About the Re-Release of “Autopsy Rules” September 10, 1979 (79) Health Education No. 1329, Medicine and Health Administration and Enforcement Electronic Library September 10, 1979"
公安部关于转发卫生部重新发布试行《解剖尸体规则》的通知 来源: 医药卫生管理与执法电子图书库 1979年9月10日
"Forensic – Postmortem Interval/fresh Must occur before the body starts swelling, within 1 to 2 days after death Source: Baidu Works Collection"
"Händler des Todes 2004-1-19 Von Röbel, Sven und Wassermann, Andreas"
「死亡交易」 来源:《明鏡週刊》2004年1月19日
"Dalian-Based von Hagens Plastination Factory Suspected of Using Executed Prisoners’ Corpses in Exhibition Source: Southern Metropolis Daily August 23, 2012 Reporter: Wang Xing Student reporter: Ruan Yang"
大连哈根斯疑用死囚尸体做展览 来源:《南方都市报》 2012年8月23日 记者:王星,实习生:阮洋
"Bodies the Exhibition – Disclaimer Premier Exhibitions"
"Phone Conversation with Sui Hongjin, Chairman of Dalian Hongfeng Audio recording:"
"Provisions on the Administration of Entry and Exit of Cadavers and Cadaver Management, Jointly Issued by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Commerce, General Administration of Customs, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine Ministry of Health Website July 17, 2006"
科技部, 公安部, 民政部, 司法部, 商务部, 海关总署, 国家工商总局, 国家质检总局九部委联合发布 “尸体出入境和尸体处理的管理规定 来源:卫生部网站 -《中央政府门户网站》 2006年7月17日
"Proceeding Deeply and Widely to Open Wider to the Outside World Dalian TV – Dalian News November 23, 2010"
深度广度同步推进 对外开放跨越升级 来源:大连电视台《大连新闻》频道 2010年11月23日
"CPPCC Proposal of “About Vigorously Developing Mystery of Life Museum” and Other Folk Cultural Industries Baidu Library – Chinese text library"
关于大力发展“生命奥秘博物馆”等民间文化产业的政协议案 《百度文库网》