Li Ching-Yuen or Li Ching-Yun (died May 6, 1933) was a Chinese herbalist, martial artist and tactical advisor. 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.
Some claim that Li Ching-Yuen was born in 1677 in Qi Jiang Xian, Szechuan province. By his own account, he was born in 1736. However, in 1930, Professor Wu Chung-chieh of the University of Chengdu discovered Imperial Chinese government records from 1827, congratulating one 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.
He began gathering herbs in the mountain ranges at the age of ten, and also began learning of longevity methods, surviving on a diet of herbs and rice wine. He lived this way for the first 100 years of his life. In 1749, when he was 71 years old, he moved to Kai Xian to join the Chinese army as a teacher of the martial arts and as a tactical advisor.
One of his disciples, the Taiji Quan 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."
In 1927, Li Ching Yuen was invited by General Yang Sen to visit him in Wan Xian, Szechuan. The general was fascinated by his youthfulness, strength and prowess in spite of his advanced age. His famous portrait was photographed there. 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. He wrote a report that was later published. In 1933, people interviewed from his home province remembered seeing him when they were children, and that he hadn't aged much during their lifetime. Others reported that he had been friends with their grandfathers.
Li's obituary was printed in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and other publications. The Time magazine article stated that in 1930 Professor Wu Chung-chieh, from Chengdu University, found records from the Chinese Imperial Government congratulating Li Ching Yuen in his 150th birthday in 1827.
He worked as an herbalist, promoting the use of wild reishi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu and gotu kola along with other Chinese herbs. Li had also supposedly produced over 200 descendents during his life span, surviving 23 wives.
The article "Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog", from the May 15, 1933 issue of Time reports on his history, since it included Li Ching-Yuen's answer to his secret of a long life:
1. Tranquil mind
2. Sit like a tortoise
3. Walk sprightly like a pigeon
4. Sleep like a dog
Dr. 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, 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", where 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 wrote in 2002 the book "Qigong Teachings of a Taoist Immortal: The Eight Essential Exercises of Master Li Ching Yuen". In this book he teaches the practice of the "Eight Brocade Qigong" learned with the Taiji Quan 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, 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.