Yi Hai is identified in the Encyclopedia of Chinese Artists as a native of Wuxing, Zhejiang. Trade in Japan at this time was restricted to the port of Nagasaki and Chinese merchants carried on their business in the Chinese Factory or Tojinyashiki (唐人屋敷). Van Gulick in his Chinese Pictorial Art suggested that although Yi Hai produced some "striking ink-landscapes" he also engaged in "some mild forms of piracy." Yi Hai's renown in Japan was to such an extent he was known as one of the "Four Great Masters From Abroad." In 1803, his works were printed with those of the master Ike-no-Taiga in Album of Paintings by Yi Fujiu and Ike Taiga.