Hagens Human Cadavers Exhibition: Bodies From Chinese Prisons

Hagens holds a saw against a female human cadaver, which sits on top of a male cadaver, making a pose of making love

Hagens with one of his human cadavers.

From Tianya:

Hagens Human Cadavers Exhibition: All Bodies Come From Chinese Prisons

Recently, the “Hagens (Gunther von Hagens) ” story has recently been the focus of public interest. There has been much controversy on an exhibited human cadaver of a young pregnant Chinese woman with an 8-month old baby in her womb. The focus of the controversy is on whether or not the body was legally obtained, because according to national laws, no pregnant woman can be executed, and even if one died of natural causes, according to traditional Chinese culture,no families or relatives would ever send the body to the relevant institution and allow it be turned into a human specimen. However, the human cadavers have no identity or any other information regarding where they come from, which attracted public attention on the legality of the origins of the bodies.

A pregnant woman, one of hagens' exhibitions of human cadavers.

A pregnant woman, one of hagens' exhibitions of human cadavers.

Gunther von Hagens is a German anatomist. Hagens, in 1977, invented plastination of the human body, and patented the technique. Von Hagens Plastination (Dalian) Co., Ltd. specializes in biological plastination. The company researches and develops biological plastination technology, and manufactures and sells plasticized cadavers. It has a research and development center based in the Dalian High-tech Park, and six manufacturing workshops who work on fixing, dissecting, sawing and cutting, dehydrating, and hardening of the bodies.

Yu Jintao, journalist of the Oriental Outlook weekly, had thoroughly investigated the company and did two reports in November 2003 and October 2005, titled “Investigation on the Corpse Factory” and “Investigation on the Dalian Corpse Company: Controversy on the Legality of the Mysterious Factory”. Both reports caused public controversy back then, and brought the attention of the State Council, which instructed the National Bureau of Quality Inspection to send an inspection team to check on the company’s investment and import and export status, making specifications on the import and export of human genetic material.

The plastinate "the Ring Gymnast" hangs next to its organ (L) displayed at the exhibition Body Worlds and "the Cycle of Life" in Singapore Science centre on October 22, 2009. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

However, Von Hagens Plastination (Dalian) Co., Ltd was honored as a German wholly-owned “high-tech company”, the world’s largest human specimen processing factory. Strangely, the company crowned as a “high-tech” star enterprise by the local government seems very mysterious. The factory site, which has never displayed any signs, is located in a place where even Dalian’s locals are unfamiliar with, and the company rehires their transportation drivers every a few months.

The factory deals with human cadavers from all over the world, and held a world exhibition called “Body Worlds“. All of the items exhibited are made of human bodies, sawed from the middle, or stripped layer by layer, or put into bizarre sporting poses. Throughout its world exhibition tour, every day people are shocked and frightened into fainting. Already, over 20 million people around the world have visited the Hagens human cadavers exhibition, which has made over 1 billion US dollars in profit for Hagens. All items exhibited were made in Dalian, China, the world’s biggest human cadavers factory.

One of Hagens' human cadavers, doing a pose of making love.

From Sina:

Suspicions on the Source of the Bodies

Where does “the corpse factory” get all its human bodies? Hagens himself has not given any clear or definite explanations, and various publicized information contradicts each other.

Hagens' employees making human cadavers.

Hagens said in an interview that the human bodies are mainly donated, and imported from Germany and other countries as well. However, according to a Hong Kong media report, one of his employees claimed that Hagens had frequently smuggled human bodies into the country, and he quit for fear of taking legal responsibility. The employee is Sui Hongjin, who established Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co., Ltd, which also specializes in human body plastination.

Hagens' employee and one of the human cadavers.

The German weekly Der Spiegel once had a report titled “Doctor Death: Von Hagens’ Business Trick”, which revealed the story of Hagens obtaining dead prisoners’ bodies, turning them into exhibition specimens and trading them. According to the Der Spiegel report, an internal document of the company shows that in December 2001, the company had received two bodies, one of a young male and the other of a young female, and that both very likely had been executed because bullet holes were on the deceased bodies. Hagens said during the interview with the Der Spiegel reporter that his employees were in charge of purchasing of the bodies, that he was shocked that such thing happened in his company and that the relevant persons were fired already.

A disclaimer on the website for “Bodies: The Exhibition“, one of the many competing exhibitions similar to Hagen’s “Body Worlds” exhibition:

Hagens' disclaimer on the resource of human bodies.

Comments from Sina Weibo :


I don’t understand why does the Mao jerky in the censored word Square still require millions each year for preservation. Why not just use Haagen Dazs’s technique to preserve it?


I remember reading reports that during World War II, the German Nazis making decorations out of human skin, and now we again see a Nazi descendant and Chinese Nazis cooperating together using human bodies of unknown origin to make profits.


I want to be turned into something like this after I die. I wonder how much it’ll cost.


Who was the mayor of Dalian in 1999?


Creatures without faith/religion are capable of anything.


This person [Hagens] is really famous in the field of anatomy, and the specimens he has made are of great help for medical education. A bunch of retards making a fuss about the source [of the bodies]…as long as they didn’t kill anyone to get the bodies, it’s okay.


It’s easy for foreigners to occupy Chinese territory, and it’s easy for foreigners to make Chinese money.


I support Hagens. Human bodies are just a pile of organic and inorganic matter. When I die, I’d donate my body to him.


Why does the Chinese government allow him to open a factory in Dalian?


It reminds me of the American horror movie House of Wax.


I think it has been on exhibit in New York for many years, but I never had the courage to go see it. I never would’ve thought the “raw materials” came from China. Sigh.


The old East-European Nazi finally realized his dream in China.


These specimens are either in sports poses or sex poses. The problem is not in whether or not they are from China, or Southeast Asia, or Africa or any other countries that are willing to sell human bodies. The truly horrifying reality is with that these mummies created under the guise of medical science, are all of the people looking at them looking at the secrets of the Egyptian pharaohs, or are they consuming death?

What do you think of such exhibitions? Do you have concerns about where the bodies come from?

Hagens holds a saw against a female human cadaver, which sits on top of a male cadaver, making a pose of making love


Written by Li Hao


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