The 250-Year-Old Bagua Master

Li Ching-YuenThe other day I quite randomly came upon the story of Li Ching-Yuen, the bagua master that reportedly lived around 250 years. This from Wikipedia, or the NY Times Obituary:

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.

I have studied Taoist immortal techniques and spent many years dabbling with Baguazhang and Xingyiquan, so I am not unfamiliar with the myths surrounding such “ancient sages,” but most of the other reports I had read were either clearly falsified or were intentionally vague, saying things like “he looked like a man of seventy though he lived for centuries.” But this one is a bit of a head-scratcher. It is true that extreme claims call for extreme evidence, and this is probably in one way or another faked. But can we prove it?

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  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Minor nitpicking, the link ends in “…htmlt” instead of “…html” removing the “t” fixes it

    Otherwise, Interesting story.

    • http://www.disinfo.com Disinformation

      Fixed, thanks!

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Minor nitpicking, the link ends in “…htmlt” instead of “…html” removing the “t” fixes it

    Otherwise, Interesting story.

  • http://disinfo.com Disinformation

    Fixed, thanks!

  • Mr Willow

    But can we prove it?

    Nope. Hell of a story, though.

    • DeepCough

      Abkhasians live to almost to 150, and Okinawans in their 80′s have more energy than an average middled-aged American. Something in the East seems to allow people to live longer.

      • Rex Vestri

        Iodine in their diet. Lots of it.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      Cant we just investigate the scientific validity of ‘taoist immortal techniques’?

      • Mr Willow

        Of course. I would highly encourage it.

        I was speaking entirely in terms of whether or not this particular story can be proved. The man is dead, and has been so for some time. All that can be gathered in terms of ‘proof’ are the stories of those that remember him. In contemporary scientific terms, anecdotes are impermissible as evidence. Any sort of foray into cryptozoology will make that readily apparent. A shame, in my personal opinion, but that is how it is.

      • Ironaddict06

        No!  Because we all know that living that long is impossible, so why even look into it?  There are several stories in the Bible where men live over 150 years.  There are stories in many civilizations where men live hundrends of years.  Since no body lives hundreds of years in todays society, we all know that previous stories were all myth.  Past civilizations must have had many crazy and stupid men with all their impossible to believe stories.  Right?

  • Mr Willow

    But can we prove it?

    Nope. Hell of a story, though.

  • DeepCough

    Abkhasians live to almost to 150, and Okinawans in their 80′s have more energy than an average middled-aged American. Something in the East seems to allow people to live longer.

  • Honu

    This is a famous ‘legend’ in China.  I’ve heard this story before.  In context of health and preventative care, the complimentary alternative medicine folk like this story.  Li’s concoction of goji berries, ginseng and reishi mushrooms is thought to be a big part of his longevity.  I’ve heard that he died when he moved to Beijing because the toxic environment hastened his death but who knows. 

  • Honu

    This is a famous ‘legend’ in China.  I’ve heard this story before.  In context of health and preventative care, the complimentary alternative medicine folk like this story.  Li’s concoction of goji berries, ginseng and reishi mushrooms is thought to be a big part of his longevity.  I’ve heard that he died when he moved to Beijing because the toxic environment hastened his death but who knows. 

  • Monkey See Monkey Do

    Cant we just investigate the scientific validity of ‘taoist immortal techniques’?

  • Mr Willow

    Of course. I would highly encourage it.

    I was speaking entirely in terms of whether or not this particular story can be proved. The man is dead, and has been so for some time. All that can be gathered in terms of ‘proof’ are the stories of those that remember him. In contemporary scientific terms, anecdotes are impermissible as evidence. Any sort of foray into cryptozoology will make that readily apparent. A shame, in my personal opinion, but that is how it is.

  • 12 Monkeys

    Dig up his bones and test to see how old they are.

    • Redacted

      Do it For Science!

      Or just leave this as a matter of faith.

  • 12 Monkeys

    Dig up his bones and test to see how old they are.

  • Rex Vestri

    Iodine in their diet. Lots of it.

  • Rhetorikol

    I no doubt believe this is entirely possible, as the rate of aging is determined by environmental factors, internal cleansing, and whole-body daily exercise. 

  • http://twitter.com/Rhetorikolas Rick Canfield

    I no doubt believe this is entirely possible, as the rate of aging is determined by environmental factors, internal cleansing, and whole-body daily exercise. 

  • Anonymous

    Do it For Science!

    Or just leave this as a matter of faith.

  • Ironaddict06

    No!  Because we all know that living that long is impossible, so why even look into it?  There are several stories in the Bible where men live over 150 years.  There are stories in many civilizations where men live hundrends of years.  Since no body lives hundreds of years in todays society, we all know that previous stories were all myth.  Past civilizations must have had many crazy and stupid men with all their impossible to believe stories.  Right?

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