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The Amazing 250 Year-Old Man, Li Ching-Yuen
When the Chinese herbalist Li Ching-Yuen died in 1933, newspapers around the world reported the news of his passing. According to his own testimony, he was 197 years old.
An investigation, however, suggested Li had forgotten his actual birthday. Official government records recorded the birth year as 1677, making him 256. Here is a copy of the obituary as printed in the New York Times on May 6, 1933:
LI CHING-YUN DEAD; GAVE HIS AGE AS 197.
“Keep a Quiet Heart, Sit Like a Tortoise, Sleep Like a Dog,” His Advice for a Long Life.
Inquiry Put Age At 256.
Reported to have buried 23 wives and had 180 descendents – sold herbs for first 100 years.
Peking, May 5 – Li Ching-Yun, a resident of Kaihsien, in the Province of Szechwan, who contended that he was one of the world’s oldest men and said he was born in 1736 – which would make him 197 years old – died today.
A Chinese dispatch from Chungking telling of Mr. Li’s death said he attributed his longevity to peace of mind and that it was his belief every one could live at least a century by attaining inward calm. Compared with estimates of Li Ching-yun’s age in previous reports from China the above dispatch is conservative. In 1930 it was said Professor Wu Chung-chien, dean of the department of Education in Minkuo University, had found records showing Li was born in 1677 and that Imperial Chinese Government congratulated him on his 150th and 200th birthdays.
A correspondent of The New York Times wrote in 1928 that many of the oldest men in Li’s neighborhood asserted their grandfathers knew him as boys and that he was then a grown man. According to the generally accepted tales told in his province. Li was able to read and write as a child, and by his tenth birthday had traveled in Kansu, Shansi, Tibet, Annam, Siam and Manchuria gathering herbs. For the first hundred years he continued at this occupation. Then he switched to selling herbs gathered by others. Wu Pei-fu, the warlord, took Li into his house to learn the secret of living to 250. Another pupil said Li told him to “keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.”
According to one version of Li’s married life he had buried away twenty-three wives and was living with his twenty-fourth, a woman of ’60.’ Another account, which in 1928 credited him with 180 living descendents, comprising eleven generations, recorded only fourteen marriages. This second authority said his eyesight was good; also, that the finger nails of his right hand were very long, and “long” for a Chinese might mean longer than any finger nails ever dreamed of in the United States. One statement of The Times correspondent which probably caused skeptical readers to believe Li was born more recently than 1677, was that “many who have seen him recently declare that his facial appearance is no different from that of persons two centuries his junior.”
One of his disciples, the Taijiquan Master Da Liu told of Master Li's story: at 130 years old Master Li encountered an older hermit, over 500 years old, in the mountains who taught him Baguazhang and a set of Qigong with breathing instructions, movements training coordinated with specific sounds, and dietary recommendations. Da Liu reports that his master said that his longevity "is due to the fact that I performed the exercises every day - regularly, correctly, and with sincerity - for 120 years." Returning home, he died a year later, some say of natural causes; others claim that he told friends that "I have done all I have to do in this world. I will now go home." After Li's death, General Yang Sen investigated the truth about his claimed background and age and wrote a report about his findings that was later published.
He worked as a herbalist, selling lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu and gotu kola along with other Chinese herbs. Li had also supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.
Ching-Yuen lived off a diet of herbs and rice wine including lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu and gotu kola.
Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, in his book "Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Qigong", says that Li Ching-Yuen was a Chinese herbalist skilled in Qigong who spent most of his life in the mountains. In 1927, the National Revolutionary Army General Yang Sen (揚森), invited him to his residence in Wann Hsien, Szechuan province, where the picture shown in this article was taken.
Chinese General Yang Sen wrote a report about him, "A Factual Account of the 250 Year-Old Good-Luck Man" (一个250岁长寿老人的真实记载), where he described Li Ching Yuen's appearance: "He has good eyesight and a brisk stride; Li stands seven feet tall, has very long fingernails, and a ruddy complexion."
Stuart Alve Olson's 2002 book "Qigong Teachings of a Taoist Immortal: The Eight Essential Exercises of Master Li Ching Yuen" teaches the practice of the "Eight Brocade Qigong" learned with the Taijiquan Master T. T. Liang (Liang Tung Tsai), who learned it from the General Yang Sen.
The Taoist Master Liu Pai Lin (劉百齡), who lived in São Paulo, Brazil from 1975 until 2000, had in his classroom another photograph of Master Li Ching Yuen unknown to the West. In this photo his face is clearly visible, as are his long and curled fingernails. Master Liu had met him personally in China, and considered him as one of his Masters. He used to say that Master Li answered to him that the fundamental taoist practice is to learn to keep the "Emptiness" (Wuji). Master Liu's son, Master Liu Chih Ming, teaches the 12 SilksQigong in CEMETRAC, as transmitted by Master Li.
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