Man’s fascination with the concept of longevity beyond the 70 or 80 years of the typical human lifespan is documented in a variety of writings, myths, and legends stretching back thousands of years. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, for example, wrote of a magical fountain in modern day Ethiopia that restored the youth of those who bathed in its waters. The Old Testament reckonings of the biblical patriarch Methuselah (grandfather of Noah) put his age at the time of his death at between 720 and 969 years. One of the more unusual cases of asserted human longevity in modern times involved Chinese resident Li Ching-Yuen (also rendered as Li Ching-Yun), mentions of whom started appearing in U.S. newspaper accounts in the 1920s accompanied by claims that he had been born in either 1677 or 1736.
According to a 1930 New York Times article, Wu Chung-chieh, a professor of the Chengdu University, discovered Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 congratulating Li Ching-Yuen on his 150th birthday.
The professor also discovered further documents later congratulating him on his 200th birthday in 1877.
Li Ching Yuen reportedly began his herbalist career at the age of 10.
According to the generally accepted tales told in his province, Li was able to read and write as a child. By his tenth birthday he had traveled in Kansu, Shansi, Tibet, Annam, Siam, and Manchuria gathering herbs.
For almost 40 years, he survived on a diet of herbs such as lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shoo wu and gotu kola, and rice wine.
In 1749, at the age of 71, he joined the Chinese Army as teacher of martial arts.
Li was said to be a much-loved figure in his community, marrying 23 times and fathering over 200 children.
According to one of Li’s disciples, he had once encountered an even older 500-year-old man, who taught him Qigong exercises and dietary recommendations that would help him extend his lifespan to superhuman proportions.
Li maintained that inward calm and peace of mind combined with breathing techniques were the secrets to incredible longevity.
Li was asked what his secret was to longevity. This was his reply, “Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon, and sleep like a dog.”
When Li Ching-Yuen finally died in 1933 his last words were, “I have done all that I have to do in this world.”
Even if we see Li as an exception, there is much that can be done to live a long life. We can look to others who don't we don't beat themselves up by doing 8-5 work, aren't stressed by the debt created by the home or car loans, don't breathe the dirty air of big cities, and exercise regularly.
They don't consume greasy meat, sugary, sweet, and genetically modified products. They don't take antibiotics. They keep away from fast food and snacks that today's people can't get enough of.
These people live in harmony with nature. They apply breathing techniques that are thought to improve mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
These things about Li may be a myth. Still, when we have a balanced diet and live in peace, I have no doubt that we will have a much longer and healthier life.