Keep a Quiet Heart

One of the most famous tales in all of Chinese medicine is that of a master herbalist, healer and mountain man known as Li Ching-Yuen. His death in 1933 was reported in newspapers across the world, including obituaries that ran in both Time magazine and the New York Times. He was said to have buried 23 wives and had been living with his 24th, a woman of 60, and had 180 descendants stretching back eleven generations. The fingernails of his venerable right hand were six inches long, yet he appeared to be man somewhere in his 60’s. A posthumous account written three years after his death by Chinese General Yang Sen entitled “A Factual Account of the 250 Year-Old Good-Luck Man.", described him as having stood seven feet tall with good eyesight, a brisk stride and a ruddy complexion. Li Ching-Yuen was 256 years old.

Imperial records indicate Li Chung Yun was born in 1677 in Chyi Jiang Hsie, Szechuan province. He spent most of his life in the mountain ranges gathering herbs and knowledge of longevity methods. In 1748, when he was 71 years old, he moved to Kai Hsien to join the Chinese army as teacher of the martial arts and as a tactical advisor. Records state that the Imperial Chinese government congratulated him both on his 150th and 200th birthdays. Correspondents from the New York Times in 1928 reported that the oldest residents in Szechuan claimed that their grandfathers had known him when they were children, and looked much the same as he had upon his death.

In his book "Ancient Secrets of Youth" Peter Kelder brings a remarkable tale about Li Ching-Yuen, told by one of his disciples, the Taiji Quan Master Da Liu. He told that at 130 years old Master Li encountered an older hermit 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’s said that his longevity "is due to the fact that I performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years." As a master herbalist Li Ching-Yuen as well had a particular interest in Gotu Kola. The Hindu sage Nanddo Narian, who himself lived to the advanced age of 107, found Gotu Kola to be in practice the finest of all herbal tonics and nutrients. The leaves of this small, pale green creeper herb have a taste described as “slightly pungent but delicious eaten with rice and bread.” He is said to have used it successfully as a preventative of senility and claimed that the herb contained an ingredient which tends to prolong the vigor of the brain in old age and to prevent usual senile degeneration with advancing years. Nanddo Narian championed the properties of the plant by saying that it provides the missing ingredient in a man’s diet, without which, he can never control disease and decay.

Li Ching Yun had discovered and mastered the rare art of “Adaptogenic Medicine”, using herbal compounds, healing foods and strenuous exercise each day. When given the right elements from Nature, can literally change itself like a chameleon to adjust to the rigors of life and disease. This in turn means that the body overcomes the imbalances, the disease elements, and stays in control of itself, healthy and vigorous both physically and mentally as well as spiritually. This science of Adaptogenisis is one that has been practiced and perfected for over 3000 years in China, Korea, Mongolia and Japan. Yet it baffles modern day Western doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

In 1927 Li Ching-Yuen was invited by General Yang Sen to visit him in Wann Hsien, Szechuan. 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.”

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Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog

–the secret of longevity as told to “Scholar War Lord” Wu Pei-fu

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  1. BH
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Stop posting stories about my ancestors (great-grand uncle in this case).

  2. Moltenorb
    Posted September 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Just picked up a six-pack of Gotu Kola…feeling better already!…Thanks!

  3. WinchesterWing
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    This Life, which seems so fair,
    Is like a bubble blown up in the air
    By sporting children’s breath,
    Who chase it everywhere

  4. mike
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    when was the top picture taken? anybody know what year?

  5. J.J.
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    fascinating! I’ve got Gotu kola @ home. I guess it’s time to brush the dust off …

  6. sonnyc2
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    years of traveling to China proved to me that the story above is classic to the way most Chinese live. They exercise twice daily, morning and evening, eat hearty sreamed vegatbles and rice, and use herbs as we use pharmacotical chemicals’

  7. kevin
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Is that li ching yuen in the top picture?

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