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July 31, 2010

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Secrets of reaching 100 years

One century is a milestone in human history, but for Ling Xiaoxin who lives in Yangpu District, 100 years is no big deal. "You have to live it day by day. Don't hurry," the 100-year-old lady says with a smile at her home in Yinhang Subdistrict.

"There is no secret to living a long life. If there were any, it would be always keeping peace in your mind."

Ling's breakfast is a small bowl of West Lake lotus root starch and two pieces of char siu sou (steamed bun stuffed with barbecued pork) -- plenty of carbohydrates for energy.

Though one-century-old, Ling speaks clearly, thinks clearly and laughs frequently.

Her daily ritual is a stroll in the neighborhood and some light physical exercise every morning.

She's very clean and neat, paying attention to good grooming. Each time she goes out, she combs her hair and takes a clean handkerchief.

"After dinner, I like watching 'Old Uncle' (a Shanghai TV show with mediators sorting out family and other disputes.) I find some disputes are ridiculous. I think quarreling is a waste of time and life. Tolerance makes space and peace."

Yangpu District is known as a base of high-tech innovation. It's also home to 85 centenarians, most of whom are said to be fairly happy and healthy, considering their age.

People are increasingly health conscious, paying attention to yang shen, or health maintenance. Health-related books, TV health programs and even peculiar pian fang (folk remedies without proven efficacy) are widely available.

So it may be a good time to visit some centenarians, take a look at their lives and ask about their longevity.

A 102-year-old retired high school teacher Wu Zugang and his 99-year-old wife Wan Xinhui live simply and peacefully in the Guohe Community.

They live on the fifth floor, but often walk down stairs for exercise, chat with neighbors in the Elders' Center and shop in nearby supermarkets.

One of Wu's hobbies is reading newspapers and writing articles; his wife sits quietly by.

The old love birds are not fussy about food -- they eat hearty, but Wu also prefers whole grains.

Wu's breakfast is a combination of traditional Chinese and Western styles, including bread, butter, eggs, milk and weirdly enough, spicy sauce with preserved black bean paste.

"Spread the bread with butter on one side and the spicy sauce on the other. Delicious," Wu says with a big smile.

Ding Shaozhen has just celebrated her 100th birthday. Except for a slight hearing problem, she has a healthy heart and normal blood pressure. She can cook for herself and help in simple housework, such as sorting vegetables. She sleeps well, loves watching TV and listening to the radio.

Even in the scorching summer, she takes a slow walk around the community to "get some earth energy."

"I wish you a long life too," Ding says to almost everybody who marvelsat her good health atsuch an age.

She doesn't overeat or drink and she eats a balanced diet with vegetables and meat.

Broad beans are her favorite vegetable and since they are now in season, Ding eats them with almost every meal.

Her biggest blessing, she says, is having a very big family -- 46 relatives in all.

"We need a bus to hold the whole family each time we go out," Ding says proudly, trying to count on her fingers the numbers of children and grandchildren.

A small cup of sorghum liquor with each meal is a must for 104-year-old Ye Zhizhi, who lives with his daughter Ye Qinyin and his son-in-law in the Pingliang Subdistrict.

"I don't have any special life habits, but sip the liquor during each meal has never changed for decades," the old man says.

Several years ago he fell in love with growing flowers and raising pet birds. His balcony is beautifully decorated with bonsai; two bird cages hang from the ceiling.

As he has a hearing problem, he speaks loudly and turns the TV on at full volume.

Every day he reads a newspaper with a magnifying glass.

"Sometimes life is like wine tasting," says Ye. "One can only appreciate it by taking small sips."


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