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3 more centenarians add to China's 'longevity town'
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Three more people have passed the century mark in Rugao, known as the longevity town of China, bringing the total number of centenarians there to 251.

The town, in eastern China, has only 1.45 million residents, meaning that it has a ratio of 17 centenarians per 100,000 people. That's well above the International Natural Medicine Association standard of a longevity region that calls for at least seven centenarians per 100,000 people, according to a local civil affairs official.

The eldest person in Rugao is a 109-year-old woman named Zhang Tianshi, who has been interviewed by numerous domestic and foreign journalists. The town, in Jiangsu Province, has 2,097 persons aged above 95, about 5,800 people above 90 and 49,000 people above 80 years, the official added.

Nobody knows why Ruago people live so long. Media reports have given many reasons, which range from eating porridge twice a day or consuming many local radishes, to gaining some benefit from the forest coverage.

Some also believe that high levels of respect from descendants and the general public have contributed.

Whatever the cause, China is expected to have more centenarians in the coming years as lifespans increase. The Ministry of Health said earlier this month that the average life expectancy in China has risen from 71.4 years in 2000 to 73 in 2005.

The report concluded that "the health condition of both rural and urban residents further improved," giving as another example the fact that the infant mortality rate fell from 25.5 per 1,000 newborns in 2003 to 15.3 per 1,000 last year.

The southern island province of Hainan reported 691 centenarians last year, double the figure in 2000. More than 80 percent of them are women and most are living in the countryside.

The mild climate and clean environment are considered to be the main reasons Hainan has become "an island of longevity".

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)

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