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 who supposedly lived to be over 256 years old. 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. He was reported to be a martial artist, herbalist and tactical advisor.
Wu Chung-chieh claims that Li Ching-Yuen was born in 1677 in Qijiang County, Sichuan province. 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, 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.
One of his disciples, the Taijiquan Master Da Liu told of Master Li’s story: at 130 years old Master Li encountered an older hermit, over 500 years old, in the mountains 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 I performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years.” Returning home, he died a year later, some say of natural causes; others claim that he told friends that “I have done all I have to do in this world. I will now go home.” After Li’s death, General Yang Sen investigated the truth about his claimed background and age and wrote a report about his findings that was later published.
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. Li had also supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.
He put his longevity down to –
- Tranquil mind
- Sit like a tortoise
- Walk sprightly like a pigeon
- Sleep like a dog
Yang Jwing-Ming, in his book Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Qigong, says that Li Ching-Yuen was a Chinese herbalist skilled in Qigong who spent most of his life in the mountains. In 1927, the National Revolutionary Army General Yang Sen (揚森), invited him to his residence in Wann Hsien, Szechuan province, where the picture shown in this article was taken.
Chinese General 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 Ching Yuen’s appearance: “He has good eyesight and a brisk stride; Li stands seven feet tall, has very long fingernails, and a ruddy complexion.”
Stuart Alve Olson’s 2002 book “Qigong Teachings of a Taoist Immortal: The Eight Essential Exercises of Master Li Ching Yuen” teaches the practice of the “Eight Brocade Qigong” learned with the Taijiquan Master T. T. Liang (Liang Tung Tsai), who learned it from the General Yang Sen.
According to legend, Li Ching Yuen was the creator of Jiulong Baguazhang (or Nine Dragons Baguazhang).
The Taoist Master Liu Pai Lin (劉百齡), who lived in São Paulo, Brazil from 1975 until 2000, had in his classroom another photograph of Master Li Ching Yuen unknown to the West. In this photo his face is clearly visible, as are his long and curled fingernails. Master Liu had met him personally in China, and considered him as one of his Masters. He used to say that Master Li answered to him that the fundamental taoist practice is to learn to keep the “Emptiness” (Wuji). Master Liu’s son, Master Liu Chih Ming, teaches the 12 Silks Qigong in CEMETRAC, as transmitted by Master Li.
Many cultures around the world, particularly in India, Tibet and China, tell of remarkable longevity achieved by spiritual (yogic and taoist) adepts. Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi with Immortal sage, Babaji and Peter Kelder’s The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth being examples.
Do you believe that Li Ching-Yuen is the oldest living man ….. ever?
Although not officially recognized in occident, the research in the official Chinese records stays that he would be by far the oldest person who ever lived, surpassing the official record (even any other claimed age) by more than 100 years.
The official title for the longest confirmed human lifespan goes to a French woman, Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years.
The Tai Chi Chuan Master Wong Kiew Kit wrote about Li Qing-Yun in his homepage, answering to his readers’ questions: “I am not sure whether the Good Luck Man, Li Qing Yun, was a real person or just a myth, but he is certainly an inspiration to us.”