Written By Basilio Chen

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I read the synopsis of Master Li Qingyun (李清雲) (1677-1933) of Sichuan, China and it impressed me as a role model to follow.

Master Li Qingyun 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 in the western world of the French woman Jeanne Calment (122 years).


Some claim that Li Ching-Yuen was born in 1677 in Qi Jiang Xian, Sichuan Province.  By his own account, Master Li said he was born in 1736.  However, in a 1930 New York Times  article, reported discovery of Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 congratulating one Qingyun 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. Further prove of his likely earlier birth date.  (It is customary as a humble Chinese practice to not boast of his/her accomplishments which would explain why Master Li would not provide his earlier date.

Master Li began early in his life 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 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, Sichuan where his famous portrait was photographed. The general was fascinated by his youthfullness, 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.[4] Li had also supposedly produced over 200 descendents during his life span, surviving 23 wives.

The secret of longevity

The article “Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog”, from the May 15, 1933 issue of  Time reports on his history, since it included Li Qingyuns answer to his secret of a long life:

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

To this account, I met a family of Chinese doctors whose ancestry consisted of a lineage of herbalist where everyone lived past 100 years.  This gentleman was already in his late 90’s when he reveal to me one important concept.  He said one of the keys to longevity is to remember the following saying: “100 diseases emanates from one condition, Phlegm”.  He apologized for not being able to reveal all of his secret formula’s however he did reveal that every year twice-a-year their family members gathered to drink various soups and many formulas of which it had the effect of eliminating phlegm from the body.  One particularly herb is  川贝 (Chuanbei) which is phlegm reducing.