According to a 1930 New York Times article, Wu Chung-chieh, a professor of the Chengdu University, discovered Imperial Chinese government records from 1827 congratulating 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.
Li Ching Yuen reportedly began his herbalist career at the age of 10, where he gathered herbs in mountain ranges and learned of their potency for longevity. For almost 40 years, he survived on a diet of herbs such as lingzhi, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shoo wu and gotu kola and rice wine. In 1749, at the age of 71, he joined the Chinese armies as teacher of martial arts. Li was said to be a much-loved figure in his community, marrying 23 times and fathering over 200 children.