Chinese herbalist claims record for longest fast

BEIJING: A Chinese herbalist claims to have beaten by five days a 44-day fast set last year by US magician David Blaine, who achieved the feat suspended above London's River Thames in a glass box. 

Chen Jianmin, 50, a second-generation doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, began the fast on March 20, consuming only water and no food.  

He emerged on Friday at least 15kg lighter, local media reported. 

But one expert quoted by state-run China News Service cast doubt on the 49-day fast, saying Chen could have hidden tiny food tablets under his fingernails, unbeknownst to observers. 

The specialist on fasting said the fact that Chen engaged in Tai Chi would have made his calorie needs too high to be sustained without food intake. 

But one man happy with the stunt was the deputy mayor of Ya'an city, who welcomed Chen feat as having put the Bifengxia Valley mountain resort on the world map. 

The Beijing News said Chen's fast had drawn an additional 87,000 visitors to the valley. They spent nearly seven billion yuan (RM3.2mil) in the process. 

Chen, of Luzhou city in southwestern Sichuan province, had said before climbing into the glass box suspended 14m in the air that the fast would “attest to the regimen of traditional Chinese medical science.” 

He claims to have undergone long-term fasting on three previous occasions in 1987, 1994 and 1999. 

Chen relies on the art of pigushengong or “the magic of fasting,” as documented in ancient Chinese medical literature or Buddhist scriptures. 

Liang Chao, a gastrointestinal doctor with the Chengdu Chinese Medicine University, said pigushengong resembled a legendary practice in the Hindu discipline of yoga, in which people were buried deep underground for long periods without suffering any harm. 

Blaine, who suffered severe palpitations and breathing difficulties in the final days of his quest, was told when he emerged that he would not be restored to full health for around six months. 

His fast was condemned by critics as pointless and dangerous. – AFP 

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