Born in Hangzhou, China, Shui is the son of a doctor and a banker. He began his musical studies on violin, but the Cultural Revolution interrupted his violin studies, and a subsequent football injury ended his dreams of becoming a violinist. At the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, he focused on conducting and composition, and worked regularly with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra. He continued his musical studies in the USA at Boston University and Tanglewood, where his instructors included Michael Charry, David Hoose, and classes at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein. He served as an assistant conductor with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and associate conductor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Choo Hoey invited Shui to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) in 1993. Shui succeeded Hoey as music director in 1997. His work in contemporary music has included leading the world premiere of Bernard Tan's Violin Concerto in January 2006, with the orchestra's leader Lynnette Seah as soloist. With the SSO, Lan Shui has made commercial recordings for the BIS label. He is scheduled to conclude his music directorship of the SSO in January 2019. From 2007 to 2015, he was chief conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic. He was formerly principal guest conductor of the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.
Shui is the recipient of several international awards, including the Boston University's Distinguished Alumni Award. He also received the Cultural Medallion in 2009 in recognition of his work for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. He also appears semi-regularly with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (NTSO) .
Shui has been married twice. He has a son from his first marriage, and a son from his second marriage.
- Akshita Nanda (2016-07-12). "Maestro Shui Lan's career almost derailed after cycling accident". Straits Times. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- Andrew Clements (2003-10-24). "Tcherepnin Piano Concertos: Ogawa/Singapore Symphony/Shui". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- "Lan Shui to step down as SSO's Music Director" (Press release). Singapore Symphony Orchestra. 11 January 2017. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
| Music Director, Singapore Symphony Orchestra
| Principal Conductor, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
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