Li Ching-Yuen or Li Ching-Yun was a Chinese herbalist, martial artist and tactical advisor, know for his supposed extreme longevity. His true date of birth was never determined. His claims are considered to be a myth by gerontologists, though they have had widespread coverage on the Internet.
Born: 3 May 1677
Died: 6 May 1933
Height: 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Known for: Extreme longevity claim and spiritual practices by means of herbs.
LiChing-Yuen spent most of his life in the mountains and was skilled in Qigong.
He worked as a herbalist, selling lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu and gotu kola along with other Chinese herbs, and lived off a diet of these herbs and rice wine.
It was generally accepted in Sichuan, that Li was fully literate as a child, and that by his tenth(10th) birthday had travelled to Gansu, Shanxi, Tibet, Vietnam, Thailand and Manchuria with the purpose of gathering herbs, continuing with this occupation for a century, before beginning to purvey instead herbs gathered by others.
It was after this he relocated to Kai Xian and there Li supposedly, at 72 years of age, in 1749, joined the army of provincial Commander-in-Chief Yeuh Jong Chyi, as a teacher of martial arts and as a tactical advisor.
In 1927, the National Revolutionary Army General Yang Sen (揚森) invited him to his residence in Wan Xian, Sichuan, where the picture shown in this article was taken.
The Chinese Warlord Wu Peifu (吳佩孚) took him into his home in an attempt to discover the secret of living 250 years.
He died from natural causes on 6 May 1933 in Kai Xian, Sichuan, Republic of China and was survived by his 24th wife, a woman of 60 years.
Li supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.
Other sources credit him with 180 descendants, over 11 generations, living at the time of his death and 14 marriages.
After his death, the aforementioned 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), in which he described Li’s appearance: “He has good eyesight and a brisk stride; Li stands seven feet tall, has very long fingernails, and a ruddy complexion.”
Timeline of lifespan according to General Yang Sen Edit
In Qijiang County, Sichuan province, in the year 1677 Li Qingyun was born. By age thirteen he had embarked upon a life of gathering herbs in the mountains with three elders. At age fifty-one, he served as a tactical and topography advisor in the army of General Yu Zhongqi.
When seventy-eight he retired from his military career after fighting in a battle at Golden River, and returned to a life of gathering herbs on Snow Mountain in Sichuan province. Due to his military service in the army of General Yu Zhongqi, the imperial government sent a document congratulating Li on his one hundredth year of life, as was subsequently done on his 150th and 200th birthdays.
In 1908, Li Qingyun and his disciple Yang Hexuan published a book, The Secrets of Li Qingyun’s Immortality.
In 1920, General Xiong Yanghe interviewed Li (both men were from the village of Chenjiachang of Wan County in Sichuan province), publishing an article about it in the Nanjing University paper that same year.
In 1926, Wu Peifu invited Li to Beijing. This visit coincides with Li teaching at the Beijing University Meditation Society at the invitation of the famous meditation master and author Yin Shi Zi.
Then in 1927, General Yang Sen invited Li to Wanxian, where the first known photographs of Li were taken. Word spread throughout China of Li Qingyun, and Yang Sen’s commander, General Chiang Kai-shek, requested Li to visit Nanjing. However, when Yang Sen’s envoys arrived at Li’s hometown of Chenjiachang, they were told by Li’s wife and disciples that he had died in nature, offering no more information. So, his actual date of death and location has never been verified.
Li Ching-Yuen died in Kai County in 1933.
In 1928, Dean Wu Chung-chien of the Department of Education at Min Kuo University, discovered the imperial documents showing these birthday wishes to Li Qingyun. His discovery was first reported in the two leading Chinese newspapers of that period, North China Daily News and Shanghai Declaration News, and then maybe one year later, potentially in 1929 by The New York Times and Time magazine. Both of these theoretical Western publications also might have reported the death of Li Qingyun in May 1933.
Whereas Li Ching-Yuen himself said to have been born in 1736, Wu Chung-chieh, a professor of the Chengdu University, asserted that Li was born in 1677; according to a 1930 New York Times article, Wu discovered Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 congratulating Li on his 150th birthday, and further documents later congratulating him on his 200th birthday in 1877. In 1928, a New York Times correspondent wrote that many of the old men in Li’s neighborhood asserted that their grandfathers knew him when they were boys, and that he at that time was a grown man.
However, a correspondent of The New York Times reported that “many who have seen him recently declare that his facial appearance is no different from that of persons two centuries his junior.” Moreover, gerontological researchers have viewed the age claim with hope even though the frequency of invalid age claims increases with the claimed age, rising from 65% of claims to ages 110–111 being true, to 98% of claims to being 115, with a 100% rate for claims of 120+ years. It is unclear though what, if any, implications these statistics have for the subject under discussion, as these figures refer to “the true claims due to administrative errors” in Belgian public records. Researchers have called his claim “amazing” and also noted that his age at death, 256 years, is a multiple of 8, which is considered good luck in China, and therefore proving he is that old.
Additionally, the connection of Li’s age to his spiritual practices has been pointed to as another reason for truth; researchers perceived that “these types of things [that certain philosophies or religious practices allow a person to live to extreme old age] are most common in the Far East”.
One of Li’s disciples, the Taijiquan Master Da Liu, told of his master’s story: when 130 years old Master Li encountered in the mountains an older hermit, over 500 years old, 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 he performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years.”
The article “Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog”, from the 15 May 1933 issue of Time reports on his history, and includes Li’s answer to the secret of a long life:
• Keep a quiet heart
• Sit like a tortoise
• Walk sprightly like a pigeon
• Sleep like a dog
An article in the Evening Independent claims that Li’s longevity is due to his experimentation with medicinal herbs in his capacity as a druggist, his discovery in the Yunnan mountains of herbs which “prevent the ravages of old age” and which he continued to use throughout his life.