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Li Ching-Yuen: The man who lived 256 years, but how?

Have you ever heard of Li Ching-Yuen? The 256 year-old Herbalist who lived on a diet of Herbs. Is this a Myth or real? Here’s what we know.

According to authenticated records, the longest that a human ever lived is 122 years. But that doesn’t mean that somebody hasn’t lived longer. Li Ching-Yuen from China supposedly lived for 256 years. It is understandable if you are skeptical, after all its only very rarely that people cross the 100 year mark, 256 seems highly unlikely.

But back in 1930, Wu Chung-chieh, a professor of the Chengdu University, found some papers substantiating the existence of a man who has been around for a very long time. According to New York Times, the papers were actually Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 and 1877, the former congratulating Li Ching-Yuen on his 150th birthday and the latter congratulating him on his 200th birthday. A New York Times correspondent investigated the matter and visited Li Ching-Yuen’s neighborhood. The correspondent reported that many old men there claimed that he was a grown man even when their grandfathers were children.

Li Ching-Yuen started working as a herbalist from the tender age of 10, he gathered herbs such as lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shoo wu and gotu kola among others from the mountain ranges of China. He had also travelled to Kansu, Sansi, Tibet, Annam Siam and Manchuria for the express purpose of gathering herbs. He learned about the various properties of the herbs and how they can increase one’s longevity.

For almost 40 years, his diet only consisted of many different kinds of herbs and rice wine. He was a herbalist, martial artist and a military adviser. He joined the Chinese army as a martial arts teacher. After an illustrious career in the military, he retired and continued to gather herbs of various kinds. He even started selling herbs gathered by others.

Li seemed to have had a full life having married 23 times and had around 200 descendents. When he died in 1933, he was survived by his 24th wife who was 60 years old at that time.

Though the age of 256 years seems like a stretch, one of Li’s disciples, Taijiquan Master Da Liu claims that when Li was 130 years old, he came across an hermit aged over 500 years. He met the hermit in the mountains during one of his herb gathering expeditions. The hermit taught him breathing exercises and movements training and made some recommendations with regards to his diet. Apparently Li performed those exercises and followed the recommended diet for the rest of his life.

Li summed up his secret to longevity in one simple statement, “Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.” He added that one’s state of mind plays a large role in their longevity.

The average lifespan of a human being in the developed countries is somewhere between 65 to 75 years. Despite advances in medicine, that hasn’t changed in sometime. The changes in weather, unhealthy food habits and pollution are some of the factors that are causing premature death. And since very few people cross the threshold of 100 years, it is quite understandable why most people are skeptical about anyone claiming to be 256 years old.

But just because it doesn’t happen often doesn’t mean it can never happen. A healthy diet and active lifestyle does help increase human lifespan, science has already proven that. So, it is quite possible that Li Ching-Yuen did live 256 years because of his stress free lifestyle and good eating habits. It is quite possible that most everyone can reach the age of 100 if they treated their bodies right.

(Writing by Ananya Dutta; Editing by Mohith Agadi)

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