Longevity myths are traditions about long-lived people (generally supercentenarians), either as individuals or groups of people, and practices that have been believed to confer longevity, but for which scientific evidence does not support the ages claimed or the reasons for the claims. While literal interpretations of such myths may appear to indicate extraordinarily long lifespans, many scholars believe such figures may be the result of incorrect translation of numbering systems through various languages coupled by the cultural and/or symbolic significance of certain numbers.
The phrase "longevity tradition" may include "purifications, rituals, longevity practices, meditations, and alchemy" that have been believed to confer greater human longevity, especially in Chinese culture.
- 1 Extreme longevity claims in religion
- 2 Ancient extreme longevity claims
- 3 Medieval era
- 4 Modern extreme longevity claims
- 5 Practices
- 6 See also
- 7 Gallery
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
Extreme longevity claims in religion
Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
Some apologists explain these extreme ages as ancient mistranslations that converted the word "month" to "year", mistaking lunar cycles for solar ones: this would turn an age of 969 years into a more reasonable 969 lunar months, or about 78.3 solar years.
Donald Etz says that the Genesis 5 numbers were multiplied by ten by a later editor. These interpretations introduce an inconsistency: it would mean that the ages of the first nine patriarchs at fatherhood, ranging from 62 to 230 years in the manuscripts, would then be transformed into an implausible range such as 5 to 18½ years. Others say that the first list, of only 10 names for 1,656 years, may contain generational gaps, which would have been represented by the lengthy lifetimes attributed to the patriarchs. Nineteenth-century critic Vincent Goehlert suggests the lifetimes "represented epochs merely, to which were given the names of the personages especially prominent in such epochs, who, in consequence of their comparatively long lives, were able to acquire an exalted influence."
Those biblical scholars that teach literal interpretation give explanations for the advanced ages of the early patriarchs. In one view, man was originally to have everlasting life, but as sin was introduced into the world by Adam, its influence became greater with each generation and God progressively shortened man's life. In a second view, before Noah's flood, a "firmament" over the earth (Genesis 1:6–8) contributed to people's advanced ages.
- Around 1912, the Maharishi of Kailas was said by missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh to be an over-300-year-old Christian hermit in a Himalayan mountain cave with whom he spent some time in deep fellowship. Singh said the Maharishi was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and baptized by the nephew of St. Francis Xavier.
- Scolastica Oliveri is said to have lived in Bivona, Italy, 1448–1578 (age 129–130), according to the archive of Monastero di San Paolo in Bivona located in Palermo.
Chapter 2 of Falun Gong by Li Hongzhi (2001) states, "A person in Japan named Mitsu Taira lived to be 242 years old. During the Tang Dynasty in our country, there was a monk called Hui Zhao [慧昭, 526–815] who lived to be 290 [288–289] years old. According to the county annals of Yong Tai in Fujian Province, Chen Jun [陈俊] was born in the first year of Zhong He time (881 AD) under the reign of Emperor Xi Zong during the Tang Dynasty. He died in the Tai Ding time of the Yuan Dynasty (1324 AD), after living for 443 years."
Like Methuselah in Judaism, Bhishma among the Hindus is believed to have lived to a very advanced age and is a metaphor for immortality. His life spans four generations and considering that he fought for his great-nephews in the Mahabharata War who were themselves in their 70s and 80s, it is estimated that Bhishma must have been between 130 and 370 years old at the time of his death.
- Devraha Baba (?–1990) was rumored to be over 700 years old.
- Trailanga Swami reportedly lived in Kashi since 1737; the journal Prabuddha Bharata puts his birth around 1607 (age 279–280), upon his death in 1887. His birth is also given as 1527 (age 359–360).[need quotation to verify]
- The sadhaka Lokenath Brahmachari reportedly lived 1730–1890 (age 159–160).
- Shivapuri Baba, also known as Swami Govindanath Bharati, was a Hindu saint who purportedly lived from 1826 to 1963, making him allegedly 136–137 years old at the time of his death. He had 18 audiences with Queen Victoria.
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Extreme lifespans are ascribed to the Tirthankaras, for instance, Neminatha was said to have lived for over 10,000 years before his ascension, Naminatha was said to have lived for over 20,000 years before his ascension, Munisuvrata was said to have lived for over 30,000 years before his ascension, Māllīnātha was said to have lived for over 56,000 years before his ascension, Aranatha was said to have lived for over 84,000 years before his ascension, Kunthunatha was said to have lived for over 200,000 years before his ascension, and Shantinatha was said to have lived even for over 800,000 years before his ascension.
- Babaji is said to be an "Unascended Master" purportedly many centuries old and is claimed to live in the Himalayas. The Hindu guru Paramhansa Yogananda claimed to have met him and was supposedly one of his disciples.
Ancient extreme longevity claims
- Fu Xi (伏羲) was supposed to have lived for 197 years.
- Lucian wrote about the "Seres" (a Chinese people), claiming they lived for over 300 years.
- Zuo Ci who lived during the Three Kingdoms Period was said to have lived for 300 years.
- In Chinese legend, Peng Zu was believed to have lived for over 800 years during the Yin Dynasty (殷朝, 16th to 11th centuries BC).
- Youchao was said to rule over China for 110,000 years.
- Suiren was said to rule over China for 456,000 years.
- Yellow Emperor was said to have lived for 113 years.
- Emperor Yao was said to have lived for 101 years.
- Emperor Shun was said to have lived for 110 years.
A book Macrobii ("Long-livers") is a work devoted to longevity. It was attributed to the ancient Greek author Lucian, although it is now accepted that he could not have written it. Most examples given in it are lifespans of 80 to 100 years, but some are much longer:
- Tiresias, the blind seer of Thebes, over 600 years.
- Nestor lived over 300 years.
- Members of the "Seres" over 300 years.
- Emperor Jimmu (traditionally, 13 February 711 BC – 11 March 585 BC) lived 126 years according to the Kojiki. These dates correspond to 125 years, 339 days, on the proleptic Julian and Gregorian calendars. However, the form of his posthumous name suggests that it was invented in the reign of Kanmu (782–806), or possibly during the time in which legends about the origins of the Yamato dynasty were compiled into the Kojiki.
- Taejo of Goguryeo (46/47 – 165) is claimed to have reigned in Korea for 93 years beginning at age 7. After his retirement, the Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa give his age at death as 118, while the Book of the Later Han states he died in 121 at age 74.
- Zahhak, 1,000 years.
- Jamshid, 700 years.
- Fereydun, 500 years.
- Askani, 200 years.
- Kay Kāvus, 150 years.
- Manuchehr, 120 years.
- Lohrasp, 120 years.
- Goshtasp, 120 years.
In Roman times, Pliny wrote about longevity records from the census carried out in 74 AD under Vespasian. In one region of Italy many people allegedly lived past 100; four were said to be 130, others up to 140. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years).
- Tiresias, the blind seer of Thebes, was alive for over 600 years (Lucian).
- Nestor lived over 300 years (Lucian).
- According to one tradition, Epimenides of Crete (7th, 6th centuries BC) lived nearly 300 years.
In the only ten-king tablet recension of this list three kings (Alalngar, [...]kidunnu, and En-men-dur-ana) are recorded as having reigned 72,000 years together. The major recension assigns 43,200 years to the reign of En-men-lu-ana, and 36,000 years each to those of Alalngar and Dumuzid.
- Billafunda (Siddha) Sayadaw U.Kowida (born in 908).
- Welsh bard Llywarch Hen (Heroic Elegies) died c. 500 in the parish of Llanvor, traditionally about age 150.
Modern extreme longevity claims
This list includes claims of longevity of 130 and older from the 14th century onward.
|Name||Alleged birthday||Death||Alleged age||Country||Notes|
|Abdel Wali Numan||1865||2007||142||Yemen|||
|Ajko Omerovitch||1804||1934-12||133–134||Ottoman Empire
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
|Alhaji Abdu Sikola||1880||2015-04-26||134–135||Nigeria|||
|Ali Al-Alakmi||1871||2018||146–147||Saudi Arabia|||
|Ali bin Abdullah bin Ezab||1866||2006-12-14||159–160||United Arab Emirates|||
|Ali Mohammed Hussein||1862||1997||134–135||Lebanon|||
|Anton Pilya||1830||1965||134–135||Russian Empire
|Antisa Khvichava||1880||2012||132||Russian Empire
|Bashir Al Saalmi||1873||2010||136–137||Oman|||
|Bir Narayan Chaudhary||1856||1998||141–142||Nepal|
|Charlie Smith||1842||1979||136–137||United States|
|Chesten Marchant||1511||1676||164–165||United Kingdom|
|Colestein Veglin||1260–1261||? (arrested in 1876)||615||United States|
|Mrs. Eckleston||1548||1691||143||United Kingdom|
|Gabriel Umeh Enemuo||1864||2015-04-28||150–151||Nigeria|||
|Henry Jenkins||1501||1670-12||168–169||United Kingdom|
|Johanna Ramatse||1883-01-01||2017-05-31||134||South Africa|||
|Josefa Molina Lantz||1831-04-30||2006||174–175||Venezuela|||
|Joseph Surrington||1637||1797||159–160||United Kingdom|||
|Li Ching-Yuen||1677 / 1736||1933||196–197 / 255–256||Republic of China
|Margaret Patten||1601–1602||1739||137||United Kingdom|||
|Maritina Vangatala||1879||Living?||139–140||Solomon Islands|||
|Maria Olivia da Silva||1880-02-28||2010-07-08||130||Brazil|||
|Mohammed bin Masoud||1861||2014-02-27||152–153||Oman|||
|Mohammed bin Zarei||1858–1859||2013||153–155||Saudi Arabia|||
|Moloko Temo||1874-07-04||2009-09-03||135||South Africa|||
|Mubarak Rahmani Messe||1874||2014-01-11||140||Algeria|
|Mzee Barnabas Kiptanui Arap Rop||1879||2012-03-08||132–133||Kenya|||
|Nasir Al-Hajry||1873||Living?||135+||United Arab Emirates|||
|Opanyin Kwaku Addae||1851-12-25||2011||159–160||Ghana|||
|Sarhat Rashidova||1875||2007||131||Russian Empire
|Sylvester Magee||1841-05-29||1971-10-15||130||United States|||
|Thomas Cam||1381||1588||207||United Kingdom|
|Thomas Damme||1494–1495||1649||154||United Kingdom|
|Thomas Parr||1482–1483||1635||152||United Kingdom|
|Thomas Newman||1388–1389||1542||153||United Kingdom|
Dutch East Indies
|Tuti Yusupova||1880-07-01||2015-03-28||134||Russian Empire
|William Edwards||1499–1500||1668-02-24||168||United Kingdom|
|Wordu Grace Wamanda||1869-05||2014-10||145||Nigeria|||
- Albrecht von Haller allegedly collected examples of 62 people ages 110–120, 29 ages 120–130, and 15 ages 130–140.
- A 1973 National Geographic article on longevity reported, as a very aged people, the Burusho–Hunza people in the Hunza Valley of the mountains of Pakistan.
- Swedish death registers contain detailed information on thousands of centenarians going back to 1749; the maximum age at death reported between 1751 and 1800 was 147.
- Cases of extreme longevity in the United Kingdom were listed by James Easton in 1799, who covered 1712 cases documented between 66 BC and 1799, the year of publication; Charles Hulbert also edited a book containing a list of cases in 1825.
- A periodical The Aesculapian Register, written by physicians and published in Philadelphia in 1824, listed a number of cases, including several purported to have lived over 130. The authors said the list was taken from the Dublin Magazine.
- Deaths officially reported in Russia in 1815 listed 1068 centenarians, including 246 supercentenarians (50 at age 120–155 and one even older). Time magazine considered that, by the Soviet Union, longevity had elevated to a state-supported "Methuselah cult". The USSR insisted on its citizens' unrivaled longevity by claiming 592 people (224 male, 368 female) over age 120 in a 15 January 1959 census and 100 citizens of Russia alone ages 120 to 156 in March 1960. Such later claims were fostered by Georgian-born Joseph Stalin's apparent hope that he would live long past 70. Zhores A. Medvedev, who demonstrated that all 500-plus claims failed birth-record validation and other tests, said Stalin "liked the idea that [other] Georgians lived to be 100".
- An early 1812 Russian Petersburgh Gazette reports a man between ages 200 and 225 in the diocese of Ekaterinoslaw (now Dnipro, Ukraine).
The idea that certain diets can lead to extraordinary longevity (ages beyond 130) is not new. In 1909, Élie Metchnikoff believed that drinking goat's milk could confer extraordinary longevity. The Hunza diet, supposedly practiced in an area of northern Pakistan, has been claimed to give people the ability to live to 140 or more. There has been no proof that any diet has led humans to live longer than the genetically-recognized maximum however Caloric restriction diets have increased lifespans of rodents significantly.
- Nicolas Flamel (early 1330s – c. 1418) was a 14th-century scrivener who developed a reputation as alchemist and creator of an "elixir of life" that conferred immortality upon himself and his wife Perenelle. His arcanely inscribed tombstone is preserved at the Musée de Cluny in Paris.
- Fridericus (Ludovicus) Gualdus (Federico Gualdi), author of "Revelation of the True Chemical Wisdom", lived in Venice in the 1680s. His age was reported in a letter in a contemporary Dutch newspaper to be over 400. By some accounts, when asked about a portrait he carried, he said it was of himself, painted by Titian (who died in 1576), but gave no explanation and left Venice the following morning. By another account, Gualdus left Venice due to religious accusations and died in 1724. The "Compass der Weisen" alludes to him as still alive in 1782 and nearly 600 years old.
Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Herodotus attributes exceptional longevity to a fountain in the land of the Ethiopians. The lore of the Alexander Romance and of Al-Khidr describes such a fountain, and stories about the philosopher's stone, universal panaceas, and the elixir of life are widespread.
After the death of Juan Ponce de León, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés wrote in Historia General y Natural de las Indias (1535) that Ponce de León was looking for the waters of Bimini to cure his aging.
- Elixir of life
- Genealogies of Genesis
- List of the oldest living people
- List of the verified oldest people
- Oldest people
- Ni, Maoshing (2006). Secrets of Longevity. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-4949-4.
Chuan xiong ... has long been a key herb in the longevity tradition of China, prized for its powers to boost the immune system, activate blood circulation, and relieve pain.
- Fulder, Stephen (1983). An End to Ageing: Remedies for Life. Destiny Books. ISBN 978-0-89281-044-4.
Taoist devotion to immortality is important to us for two reasons. The techniques may be of considerable value to our goal of a healthy old age, if we can understand and adapt them. Secondly, the Taoist longevity tradition has brought us many interesting remedies.
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Such an interpretation would have made Enoch only five years old when his son was born!
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Three kings in a Sumerian list (which also contains exactly ten names) are said to have reigned 72,000 years each.
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