Skip to main content

Li Ching-Yuen: The Man Who Lived to Be 256



Every culture has its share of folk legends, and the Chinese are no exception.  One fabled person in Chinese folklore is Li Ching-Yuen, who is rumored to have died in 1933 at the age of 256.

Li Ching-Yuen was relatively unknown outside of Szechuan until 1930, when a New York Times article written by Professor Wu Chung-chieh stated that Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 were found, congratulating Ching-Yuen on his 150th birthday.  Other government documents from 1877 were allegedly found, congratulating Li Ching-Yuen on his 200th birthday.

According to locals who knew him, Li Ching-Yuen began gathering medicinal herbs as a young boy, perhaps in a quest for immortality.  For the better part of his life, his diet consisted only of herbs and rice wine.  At the age of 71, Li Ching-Yuen moved to  Kai Xian, where he was hired by the military to teach martial arts.

Master Da Liu, a student of Ching-Yuen, attributed his teacher's longevity to Baguazhang- a form or martial art which said to have been invented by Buddhist and Tao monks.  He was also a practitioner of chi kung (also known as qigong), a type of alternative medicine and meditation which focuses on rythmic breathing.  Mastrer Da Liu, in his 1983 work Taoist Health Exercise Book, quotes Li Ching-Yuen as saying that his longevity was "due to the fact that I performed the exercises every day - regularly, correctly, and with sincerity - for 120 years."

Whether or not Li Ching-Yuen really lived to be 256, the herbalist was quite an amazing character.  He stood at a height of 7 feet, which is enormous even by today's standards.  In his lifetime, he is said to have fathered over two hundred children, and outlived 23 wives.



 Li Ching-Yuen died of natural causes on the 6th of May in 1933.  His final words are recorded as: "I have done all I have to do in this world. I will now go home."

While scholars may debate the historical accuracy of Ching-Yuen's date of birth and many details of his legendary life, one thing is certain- the herbalist and teacher did manage to survive to a very old age.  Fortunately for the rest of us, he left behind many rules for living a long, full life.  One such set of rules can be found in a May 15, 1933 issue of Time:

    Tranquil mind.
    Sit like a tortoise.
    Walk sprightly like a pigeon.
    Sleep like a dog.



Want to live to be 100?  Be sure to check out the following JOTB Staff Picks on the topic of longevity:



Popular posts from this blog

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his b…

Remembering the ill-fated voyage of the Aerowagon

From 1917 to 1922, the Bolshevik-led Red Army battled the anti-Communist White Army during the Russian Civil War.  By the end of 1919 the Bolsheviks had taken the cities of Omsk and Kiev, and had successfully repelled the White Russian siege of Petrograd.  However, the Bolshevik's momentum would be short-lived as the White Army, after retreating across the Baikal, regrouped and joined forces with Gigory Semyonov's Transbaikal Cossacks.  As the Red Army's losses began to mount, especially in Poland, the Bolsheviks attempted to gain a competitive advantage by embracing new technologies, sometimes with disastrous results.  Such is the sad tale of young inventor Valerian Abakovsky and his Aerowagon.

Abakovsky was a Latvian-born inventor who earned his living as a chauffeur for Cheka, the state security organization created by Lenin.  His position granted him access to many high-ranking Soviets and, although details are scarce, Abakovsky most likely used his influence within t…

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.


Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …