In remote, mountainous, semi-tropical Bama County in China, it is customary for families to make a coffin for any relative who has reached the age of 60. Yet most coffins have rotted away long before they are needed and often end up being used to store corn instead of their designated elder. One 105-year-old who was visited by journalists in 2010 joked about the coffin made for her in 1958, which she can break into pieces with her hand. Another 116-year-old was reported to have seen four coffins decay before she was finally ready for the fifth.
For the truth is that the Bama people are some of the most vibrantly healthy, long-lived people in the world, with exceptionally high numbers of active, disease-free nonagenarians, centenarians and super-centenarians. A 2000 census recorded 74 centenarians amongst the population of 238,000, which is close to Okinawan levels. Studies show that only ten percent of nonagenarians in Bama have coronary heart disease and only four percent have excess blood lipids, whilst cancer incidence is a mere 4.4 people per 10,000.
The curative properties of Bama are legendary in China, with visitors coming from all over the country to soak them in. First, there is the vast, clear, Panyang river flowing through the valley with its mineral-rich water to bathe in and drink. Secondly, the Bama air, which is of just the right warmth and humidity year round, is known to be extremely high in negative ions and oxygen, thus creating a sense of exhilaration in those who breathe it. Bama also has high geomagnetism, said to benefit circulation, lower blood pressure and regulate the body’s ion balance. Throw in breathtaking scenery (so good for the spirits), an exemplary diet, and certain key lifestyle practices of the local people and you have a perfect storm of pro-health, pro-longevity conditions.
Bama people are themselves aware of the health-giving properties of their diet and lifestyle. The visitor is usually offered a bowl of ‘longevity soup’, made with hemp oil, an oil rich in both omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids which are crucial for perfect health. Bama people also believe their Fragrant Pig, lean and organic, and Oil Fish from the Panyang River, to be ‘treasures of longevity’. Loving relationships, hard work and good deeds are all considered to be conducive to good health, and Bama also boasts a large golden board donated by a former emperor bearing the legend ‘Love Makes Longevity.’
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