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The Fascinating Story of the Oldest Man in History

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Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.

The incredible story of Li Ching-Yuen, a martial art expert and an herbalist who lived for over 256 years.

The incredible story of Li Ching-Yuen, a martial art expert and an herbalist who lived for over 256 years.

The Fountain of Longevity

Mankind has always been fascinated by longevity and immortality. In fact, we can find several treatises, myths and legends on the topics that span across centuries and people never seem to get enough of it.

The 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, and Old Testament descriptions of the biblical patriarch Methuselah (grandfather of Noah) put his age at the time of his death at between 720 and 969 years.

Some early emperors of Japan are said to have ruled for more than a century, according to the texts documented in the Kojiki. Extreme lifespans are also ascribed to the Tirthankaras in Jainism.

And so on……The examples are endless in every country and every culture.

Coming to modern times, one of the most unusual (and also the most unbelievable) case of longevity comes from China in the province of Szechwan. One of its resident Li Ching-Yuen, a martial art expert and an herbalist is claimed to be born in either 1677 or 1736 (his true date of birth was never known). He lived for over 190 years or 256 years and died somewhere in 1933.

Yes, it seems impossible but that is what Wu Chung-chieh, a professor of the Chengdu University claimed when he found some Imperial Chinese government records substantiating Li Ching-Yuen’s existence from 1827 and 1877, the former congratulating Li Ching-Yuen on his 150th birthday and the latter congratulating him on his 200th birthday. The findings were published later in a 1928 New York Times article.

A New York Times correspondent even investigated this matter by even going to his hometown and found that many old men living there claimed that he was already a grown man even when their grandfathers were children.

It seems likely that Li Ching-Yuen might well be the oldest man in history.

It is believed that Li Ching-Yuen's extensive knowledge of herbs helped him to find various properties that can increase one’s longevity

It is believed that Li Ching-Yuen's extensive knowledge of herbs helped him to find various properties that can increase one’s longevity

The Story of Li Ching-Yuen

Li Ching-Yuen started working as an herbalist from the age of 10, he gathered herbs such as Lingzi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shoo wu, and gotu kola among others from the mountain ranges of China.

He had also travelled periodically to Kansu, Sansi, Tibet, Annam Siam, and Manchuria for the express purpose of gathering herbs and making concoctions from various combinations of herbs.

It is believed that his extensive knowledge of herbs helped him to find various properties that can increase one’s longevity. And besides collecting herbs he also followed a unique diet of consisting of many kinds of herbs and rice wine. He also picked wild mushrooms and was very particular about strains such as red reishi which he believed helps boost energy levels and helps with sexual performance.

Along with the diet he was also a firm believer of exercise and fitness. According to one of Li’s disciples, he once encountered a 500-year-old man who taught him Qigong exercises and breathing recommendations that help extend longevity to record levels. The herb diet along with the Qigong exercises are believed to be the secret of his insane longevity.

At the age of 71, in 1749, he joined the Chinese army as a martial arts instructor. It is hard to believe that somebody can join such a grueling job at such an age but that does speak volumes about the incredible heath of Li. After the stint in the military, he retired and continued to gather herbs of various kinds. He even started selling herbs gathered by others.

He was beloved and respected by the community and reportedly married 23 times, fathering some 200 children in the process. When he died in 1933, he was survived by his 24th wife who was 60 years old at that time.

In 1877, when the Chinese Imperial Government congratulated him on his 200th birthday, a military general Wu Pei-fu took him to his house to know the secret of his longevity. Li had simply said.

“Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.”

These were the golden words of wisdom from a man who clearly fully knew how to live his life.

Can Somebody Really Live That Long?

Yes, just because it is unbelievable does not mean it cannot happen. After all, science has proved that a healthy diet and active lifestyle does help increase human lifespan. So, it is quite possible that Li lived long because of a stress-free lifestyle, healthy eating habits and spending all his life in a pollution-free natural environment.

And the end of the day, our body is our temple and it all boils down to how we treat it. Who knows, when we start treating our bodies right, living beyond 100 years might be commonplace someday. yes, I know it sounds easy, but we all can do it if we desire so.

As the famous yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar has rightly said.

“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”

Sources

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 29, 2021:

Thanks Flourish for your comments

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 29, 2021:

I really like his quote on how to live. Very interesting!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 29, 2021:

Sure Miebakagh ,perhaps you can crack the secret of longevity.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 29, 2021:

Thanks Misbah for your comments

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 29, 2021:

ravirajah, you're welcome. I'll make a further indept study of Li Chim-Yuen life and life style. The article is very inspirational and motivating. More thanks again.

Misbah from The Planet Earth on April 29, 2021:

OMG! He lived too long. I would never like to live that long but this is interesting to know that he lived. Diet and lifestyle matters a lot. Thanks for sharing. This was an incredible story.

Blessings

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Brenda for your comments

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 28, 2021:

Wonderful thought that we could live beyond a hundred...I've only known a few that do.

But just maybe...but keeping stress out of our lives right now is very difficult.

Nice story.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Miebakagh for the comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Devika for your comments

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 28, 2021:

What an interesting article that fascinates me. For years, I was always thinking about living up to 100 years. It seems to program my mind. As a regular keep fit and exercise enthusiast, I believe I would get pass the 100 years mark. Today I chem a bit of raw garlic, ginger and wash it down with a bup of black tea. Thanks for a wonderful read.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 28, 2021:

Your hubs are interesting and historical i topics do resonate with readers, Thank you for this person. Some people just live longer in their different lifestyles.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Peggy for your comments

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2021:

This is an incredible story. In addition to diet and lifestyle, he must have had incredible genes.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Liz for your comments

Liz Westwood from UK on April 28, 2021:

I had not heard of this person before. It is amazing how long some people live.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks Sukhdev for your comments

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on April 28, 2021:

Really incredible, Ravi. The story is an inspiration for healthy diet and active lifestyle. I wish all of us adopt to the extent we can. Thanks for sharing.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

Thanks John for the comments

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 28, 2021:

Thank you for sharing this incredible story of longevity, Ravi. I guess anything is possible. Very interesting.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 28, 2021:

The incredible story of Li Ching-Yuen, a martial art expert and an herbalist who was supposedly born in either 1677 or 1736 (his true date of birth was never known). He lived for over 190 years or 256 years and died somewhere in 1933.

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