Li Ching-Yuen

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Li.
Li Ching-Yuen
Li chingYuen.jpeg
Li Ching-Yuen at the residence of National Revolutionary Army General Yang Sen in Wan Xian, Sichuan in 1927
Born Unknown (reportedly in either 1677 or 1736)
Sichuan, Qing Empire
Died May 6, 1933 (supposedly aged either 256 or 197)
Sichuan, Republic of China
Known for Extreme longevity claim and spiritual practices by means of herbs
Height 7 ft (210 cm)[1]
Spouse(s) 24[2][3]

Li Ching-Yuen or Li Ching-Yun (simplified Chinese: 李清云; traditional Chinese: 李清雲; pinyin: Lǐ Qīngyún; died May 6, 1933) was a Chinese herbalist, martial artist and tactical advisor, known for his supposed extreme longevity.[4][5] He claimed to be born in 1736, while disputed records suggest 1677. Both alleged lifespans of 197 and 256 years far exceed the longest confirmed lifespan of 122 years and 164 days of the French woman Jeanne Calment. His true date of birth was never determined and his claims have been condemned by gerontologists as fabrications.[6]


Li Ching-Yuen was born at an uncertain date (see § Longevity below) in Qijiang Xian, Sichuan, Qing Empire.[7]

He spent most of his life in the mountains and was skilled in Qigong.[7] He worked as an 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.[8]

It was generally accepted in Sichuan, that Li was fully literate as a child, and that by his tenth birthday had travelled to Kansu, Shansi, 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.[9]

It was after this he relocated to Kai Xian and there Li supposedly, at 71 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.[7][10]

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.[7]

The Chinese Warlord, Wu Peifu (吳佩孚) took him into his home in an attempt to divine the secret of living 250 years.[9]

He died on May 6, 1933 in Kai Xian, Sichuan, Republic of China and was survived by his 24th wife, a woman of 60 years.[3][9] Li supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.[2][3] Though other sources credit him with 180 descendants, over 11 generations, living at the time of his death and 14 marriages.[7][9]

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."[1][7]


Whereas Li Ching-Yuen himself claimed 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.[11] 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.[12]

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."[9] Moreover, gerontological researchers have viewed the age claim with extreme skepticism; the frequency of invalid age claims increases with the claimed age, rising from 65% of claims to ages 110-111 being invalid, to 98% of claims to being 115, with an 100% rate for claims of 120+ years.[6] Researchers have called his claim "fantastical" and also noted that his claimed age at death, 256 years, is a multiple of 8, and, as such, is considered good luck in China, and therefore is indicative of fabrication.[6] Additionally, the connection of Li's claimed age to his spiritual practices has been pointed to as another reason for doubt; researchers perceived that "these types of myths [that certain philosophies or religious practices allow a person to live to extreme old age] are most common in the Far East".[6]

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."[13]

The article "Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog", from the May 15, 1933 issue of Time reports on his history, and includes Li's answer to the secret of a long life:[11]

  • Tranquil mind
  • Sit like a tortoise
  • Walk sprightly like a pigeon
  • Sleep like a dog

An article in the Evening Independent claims that Li's supposed longevity is due to, in his first century of life, by way of 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.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yang, Sen. A Factual Account of the 250 Year-Old Good-Luck Man. Taipei, TW: Chinese and Foreign Literature Storehouse. 
  2. ^ a b Harris, Timothy (2009). Living to 100 and Beyond. ACTEX Publications. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-56698-699-1. 
  3. ^ a b c d Miami Herald (October 12, 1929). "Living forever". The Evening Independent. 
  4. ^ "史上第一長壽!256歲的李青雲 長壽秘訣只有一個字". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  5. ^ "256歲娶24妻 李慶遠長壽秘訣公開 | 即時新聞 | 20130927 | 蘋果日報". 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d Young Robert D., Desjardins Bertrand, McLaughlin Kirsten, Poulain Michel and Perls Thomas T. (2010). "Typologies of Extreme Longevity Myths". Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research 2010: 1–12. doi:10.1155/2010/423087. PMC 3062986. PMID 21461047. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Yang, Jwing-Ming (1989). Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Chi Kung: The Secret of Youth (PDF). YMAA Publication Centre. ISBN 0-940871-06-8. 
  8. ^ Castleman, Michael; Saul Hendler, Sheldon (1991). The healing herbs: the ultimate guide to the curative power of nature's medicines. Rodale Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-87857-934-1. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Li Ching-Yun Dead". The New York Times. May 6, 1933. 
  10. ^ "Amazing! Man Lived For 256 Years". "Beyond Science". Published April 23, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog". Time. May 15, 2012. 
  12. ^ Ettington, Martin K. (2008). Immortality: A History and How to Guide: Or How to Live to 150 Years and Beyond. Martin Ettington. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-4404-6493-5. 
  13. ^ Liu, Da (1983). Taoist Health Exercise Book. Putnam. 

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