Did This Ancient Chinese MASTER HERBALIST Really Live To Be 256 Years Old?

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li-chingThe ancient Li Ching-Yun – why is he looking so moody?

It’s story time… this is the incredible tale of the mysterious herbalist and Qi Gong master Li Ching-Yun – reported to be 256 years old – his obituary in the New York Times – his advice for longevity – his years of training – and the tonic herbs he used throughout his life!

One of the most fascinating stories seldom told is that of the ancient Chinese sage Li-Ching Yun aka. Li-Ching Yuen – who according to some sources lived to be 256 years old.

Some may already have dismissed this entire story as phooey – but not so fast: There is a thread of evidence that he may have lived way past the “best before” date.

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. He died in 1933.

Scholars researched his life and found documentation to support his extreme age: In a 1930 New York Times article, Professor Wu Chung-chieh of the University of Chengdu reported on 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. However, those documents are not accessible to the Western world.

Li Ching-Yun’s story was rejected by the Guinness Book of Records – probably no doubt due to both a) the inability to view the documentation of his life and b) the extreme unlikelihood of his having achieved that age. The Guinness Book Of Records has stated that in general, the record for the longest living person is the one out of all their records that has been most subject to deliberate falsification; so they are ultra-cautious to only include those whose longevity has been fully ascertained and documented.

However, many have accepted Li-Ching’s astounding longevity, double that of the longest living person, as being a fact. Several eye witness accounts stated that they had known him their entire lives and he “didn’t appear to age much”. 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. Varying accounts stated that he had outlived either 14 or 20 wives and had numerous offspring.

One thing that is not disputed is the date of Li Ching-Yun’s death: His obituary was featured in the New York Times of May 6th 1933 [1] and in Time Magazine on Monday May 15th, 1933. [2]

The Master Herbalist

Here’s where it gets interesting: Li Ching-Yun was a master herbalist! Living for many years out in the pure, unspoilt wilds of old Asia, he learned from Taoist masters the ancient art of wildcrafting (gathering) herbs, collecting, preparing and eating obscure plants from remote forest and mountain. By the time he was ten years old he had traveled in Kansu, Shansi, Tibet, Annam, Siam and Manchuria, gathering herbs. One can only imagine the absolute purity and quality of the herbs that would have been attained high in the mountains in that era – long before pollution set in. Li Ching-Yun was said to have collected herbs for the first 100 years of his life, surviving on herbs and rice wine. Then he switched to selling herbs gathered by others.

Undoubtedly if such were true he would have investigated innumerable plants – however according to modern accounts, some of the more significant herbs Li-Ching took were Lingzhi (Reishi) Mushroom, Ginseng, Gotu Kola, WolfBerries (aka or very similar to Goji Berries) and Polygonum multiflorum (aka. Ho Shou Wu / He Shou Wu).

These herbs are considered some of the most important “Tonic Herbs” of Traditional Chinese Medicine – and are believed to prolong life and vitality. It is often written that of these, the most significant for life extension is Polygonum multiflorum (aka Ho Shou Wu or He Shou Wu).

Li Ching-Yun was also a disciple of Qi Gong – claiming that his daily practice of the forms and disciplines “with absolute steadfastness” for 120 years were a significant part of the reason for his astounding age.

Could it possibly be that our venerable sage did indeed live longer than a “normal” lifespan? And if so, is it possible that his longevity was attributable to some rare herbal formula now lost in the mists of time?

Sadly, we may never know the answer. The ancient Chinese lived in a now-forgotten world – completely different to the one of Communism that replaced it. They loved to tell tales of Taoist Immortals of astounding discipline and incredible mystical powers. Also – 256 is an exact multiple of 8; a number considered auspicious in China. So Master Li’s tale may be pure symbolism.

Whether true or not, however, it attests to one thing: The reverence with which the ancient Chinese regarded herbalism and the natural way. Is it possible that there is some “secret” combination of these ancient herbs that works in synergy to extend life? The ancient Chinese certainly thought so.

With the rainforests being felled at an alarming rate and desertification increasing, so innumerable plant species – thousands – are sadly and irretrievably lost. These rare plants contain all kinds of molecules still undiscovered and unexplored by science. These may yet represent our best hope at finding cures for some of our most serious ailments. Another reason we must make every effort to save the primal forests and prevent the unknown from becoming unknowable…

I’ve located the most important herbs reported to have been used by Master Li – on Amazon.com :

Goji Berries – certified organic: Sunfood Goji Berries, Certified Organic, Non-GMO, 8oz (these are true certified organic, uncommon for Goji) and getting some of the best reviews for Goji.

Gotu Kola Tincture (4oz): Herb Pharm – Gotu Kola Alcohol-Free 4 oz

Gotu Kola capsules:Organic India Brahmi-Gotu Kola, 90-Veg. Capsules

Reishi “Liver Guard” Tea: Tea Reishi Liver Guard 20 Bags

Polygonum multiflorum tincture: Fo-Ti Root (Polygonum multiflorum) Liquid Extract Tincture 4 oz

Ginseng – Chinese Red: Imperial Elixir Chinese Red Ginseng, 100 Capsules

Ginseng – Korean Red: Prince Of Peace – Korean Red Ginseng, 518 mg, 50 capsules

Further Reading:


That’s it! Note – as usual, this article is not medical advice or recommendation.


[1] New York Times. May 6, 1933. Li Ching Yuen Lived To Be 197! http://plantcures.com/Lichingyun.html

[2] Time Magazine. May 15, 1933. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,745510,00.html

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