His early studies include time at the famous Yucai School in Chongqing. He moved to Shanghai in 1948, where he performed as a pianist. He attended the Tchaikovsky Music Conservatory in Moscow from 1954 to 1958, before joining the Beijing Central Conservatory.
- Collaborating on the ballet Red Detachment of Women (premiered 1964, possibly the best-known Chinese ballet).
- The Mermaid (ballet), with Wu Zuqiang
- The Goddess of the River Luo (symphonic fantasia)
- A violin concerto (1982) and three piano concertos, the first one subtitled Spirit of Spring (1988), the third one subtitled Gulangyu (2004)
- A symphonic version of the Beijing Opera, Women Generals of the Yangs, commissioned by the China Philharmonic Orchestra