"Longevity is the sweetest fruit on the Taoist tree of health.
Throughout the entire 5,000 years of recorded history in China, prevention has remained the guiding principle in maintaining human health; essence, energy, and spirit upon which health depends were prized and protected as 'true' treasures of life.
Health was regarded as a primary responsibility of the individual, and disease as a mistake in lifestyle.
The greatest value traditional Chinese health care holds for modern medicine lies in the many simple but effective methods Chinese physicians developed for cultivating mental and physical health, balancing essence and energy, preventing disease and degeneration, and prolonging life. They recorded their discoveries in the medical archives of ancient China, which remain as valid today as they were then.
Longevity not only enables you to enjoy the fruits of your practices such as health, vitality, clarity, and equanimity, it also supplies you with the extra time and experienced required to traverse the highest paths of spiritual development and take a shot at the ultimate goal of enlightenment, or 'spiritual immortality'.
'The reason people die so young these days,' states the Classic of the Plain Girl, 'is that they no longer know the secrets of the Tao.'
That was written over 2,000 years ago as China entered its 'modern age' and people began to 'lose the Way'.
Straying far from the Great Highway of health, longevity, and spiritual awareness, people prefer to wander down the dead-end byways of worldly desires, where they're snared by the emotional machination of the "Chief Hooligan" and deceived by the sensory tricks of the "Five Thieves". Ever since civilization divorced man and woman from nature, human life has lost its natural harmony.
According to the Taoist view, nature designed the human body to live an average life span of about 100 years, and if we take measures to prolong our lives, we should be able to extend our life spans to 150 years or more.
There are many examples in Chinese history of Methuselah's who lived even longer than that, the most recent case being a Taoist adept and master herbalist from southwest China named Lee Ching-yuen, who lived to be over 250 years old.
Lee Ching-yuen was born in 1678, during the seventeenth year of the Manchu emperor Kang Shi's reign. He left home at an early age and traveled around southern China with a group of itinerant herb traders, from whom he learned the basics of herbalism. Subsequently, Lee had the good fortune to meet several highly accomplished Taoist masters, who taught him internal alchemy and Tee-Jung, and showed him how to utilize diet and herbal supplements for health and longevity.
Though not a strict vegetarian, Lee consumed very little meat and also limited his intake of grains and root vegetables.
His daily diet consisted primarily of lightly steamed vegetables, fresh fruit, and tonic herbs. The herbs he recommended most highly for promoting health and prolonging life were ginseng, gout kola, polygon, multiform, and garlic.
Nor was Lee Ching-yuen celibate: over the course of his long life he married fourteen times, and by the time of his death in 1930, he counted almost 200 living descendants within his extended family.
After his death, modern scholars confirmed his identity, traced his life all the way back to the year of his birth, and conclusively verified his life span.
Lee Ching-yuen's life demonstrates how well Taoist longevity techniques work when properly practiced. The point here is not only to add years to your life, but also to 'add life to your years", i.e., to maintain your health and vitality until the very end of your days.
Lee Ching-yeun continued to take long hikes in the mountains until the final years of his life, remained sexually active for over two centuries, never became senile, and died with all his own teeth and most of his hair. These days, few people even reach the age of sixty in that condition.
Modern Western medicine like to claim that it has extended the human life span by over twenty years since 1900, but this claim is based entirely on a dramatic decline in infant mortality, not on better health or longer life for adults.
Several studies have shown that the average beggar in India and peasant in Mexico are healthier than the average American college student, and few people in Western societies today reach old age with their bodies and minds intact.
While it is true that thanks to live-saving medical technology, a baby born in American stands a better chance of survival than in Africa or the Middle East, the USA now ranks thirty-seventh in the world for the life expectancy of a twenty-year-old person.
In an article published in the New York State Medical Journal, Dr. Norman Joliffe points out that 'although in America the life expectancy at birth is near the best of any civilized country in the world- at the age of 40 life expectancy in American is near the bottom'.
The overall health of the entire population of America- from children to the elderly - is appallingly poor and continues to deteriorate.