Li Ching-Yuen or Li Ching-Yun (simplified Chinese: 李清云; traditional Chinese: 李清雲; pinyin: Lǐ Qīngyún) (claimed 1677/1736? – 6 May 1933) was a Chinese herbalist who it was claimed by others to have lived to be 256. He claimed to be born in 1736, which would have made him 197 at the time of his death.
Li Ching-Yuen was born at an uncertain date in Qijiang Xian, Sichuan, Qing Empire. He spent most of his life in the mountains and was skilled in Qigong. He worked as a herbalist and selling herbs and lived off a diet with rice wine.
It was after this he relocated to Kai Xian and there Li supposedly, at 72 years of age, in 1749, joined the army of provincial Commander-in-Chief Yeuh Jong Chyi, as a teacher of martial arts and as a tactical advisor.
He died from natural causes on 6 May 1933 in Kai Xian, Sichuan, Republic of China and was survived by his 24th wife, a woman of 60 years. Li supposedly produced over 200 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives. Other sources credit him with 180 descendants, over 11 generations, living at the time of his death and 14 marriages.
After his death, the aforementioned 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's appearance: "He has good eyesight and a brisk stride; Li stands seven feet tall, has very long fingernails, and a ruddy complexion."
Timeline of lifespan according to General Yang Sen
in Qijiang County, Sichuan province, in the year 1677 Li Qingyun was born. By age thirteen he had embarked upon a life of gathering herbs in the mountains with three elders. At age fifty-one, he served as a tactical and topography advisor in the army of General Yu Zhongqi.
When seventy-eight he retired from his military career after fighting in a battle at Golden River, and returned to a life of gathering herbs on Snow Mountain in Sichuan province. Due to his military service in the army of General Yu Zhongqi, the imperial government sent a document congratulating Li on his one hundredth year of life, as was subsequently done on his 150th and 200th birthdays.
In 1908, Li Qingyun and his disciple Yang Hexuan published a book, The Secrets of Li Qingyun’s Immortality.
In 1920, General Xiong Yanghe interviewed Li (both men were from the village of Chenjiachang of Wan County in Sichuan province), publishing an article about it in the Nanjing University paper that same year.
Then in 1927, General Yang Sen invited Li to Wanxian, where the first known photographs of Li were taken. Word spread throughout China of Li Qingyun, and Yang Sen's commander, General Chiang Kai-shek, requested Li to visit Nanjing. However, when Yang Sen's envoys arrived at Li’s hometown of Chenjiachang, they were told by Li’s wife and disciples that he had died in nature, offering no more information. So, his actual date of death and location has never been verified. Li Ching-Yuen died in Kai County in 1933.
In 1928, Dean Wu Chung-chien of the Department of Education at Min Kuo University, discovered the imperial documents showing these birthday wishes to Li Qingyun. His discovery was first reported in the two leading Chinese newspapers of that period, North China Daily News and Shanghai Declaration News, and then maybe one year later, potentially in 1929 by The New York Times and Time magazine. Both of these theoretical Western publications also might have reported the death of Li Qingyun in May 1933.
An interesting sidelight was thrown upon the unique properties of fo-ti-tieng (Gotu Kola) by a 107 year old Indian Sage named Nanddo Narian, who claimed that the herb provides the missing ingredient in a man's diet, without which, he can never control disease and decay. He found it to be, in practice, the finest of all herbal tonics and nutrients.
The results of the studies performed upon Gotu Kola by the French in Algeria revealed what appears to be a new vitamin not known in any other food or herb. It was described as the "youth vitamin X" that exerts a rejuvenating influence upon the ductless glands, the healthy functioning of which is, the means by which the brain and body are maintained for healthy activity.
Doubts about his alleged age
Li's longevity claim could likely never be firmly established. The census documentation of rural 17th-century China is so sparse by comparison to modern records as to make any sort of successful investigation improbable. Li's history follows the course of other Chinese longevity myths, such as that of Chen Jun's 443 years and extreme fecundity. Given the hyperbolic claim, and its similarity to well-discounted longevity myths, experts universally discount his mythical age. The possibility that he was in truth a Supercentenarian of some sort can be neither established nor definitively disconfirmed. However, no documentary evidence exists in support of the claim.
By contrast, the longest confirmed, documentable lifespan is of a French woman, Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, less than half the lifespan of Yuen. He also claims to have been 110 in 1787, over 110 years before the next time that happened.
The Taiji Quan 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."
- 256 year old man reveals the secrets to his longevity
- Li Ching Yuen dead The New York Times, 6 May 1933
- Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog Time, 15 May 1933