Li Ching-Yuen or Li Ching-Yun (simplified Chinese: traditional Chinese:; pinyin: Lǐ Qīngyún (1677 or 1736 – 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 a 1930 New York Times article, 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 40 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 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.”
In 1927, Li Ching Yuen was invited by General Yang Sen to visit him in Wan Xian, Szechuan where his famous portrait was photographed. The general was fascinated by his youthfulness, strength and prowess in spite of his advanced age. 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, 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 descendants during his life span, surviving 23 wives.