He married Hu Shuxiu (胡淑修; 1047-1105), a talented woman from a prominent family, and passed the imperial examinations in 1070 with a jinshi degree. He became an important disciple and part of the Yuanyou circle that included Su Shi.
His best known work, the Busuanzi (卜算子; 'Song of Divination'), is included in the poetry collection 300 Song Ci (宋詞三百首). Its first verse is referenced in the contemporary novel The Three-Body Problem.
- James J.Y. Liu, Richard John Lynn Language-Paradox-Poetics: A Chinese Perspective 1400859689 - 2014 p.70 "One of the first Song poet-critics to compare poetry to Chan was Li Zhiyi (ca. 1040–ca. 1105), who wrote the following in his poem “Presented to the Reverend Master Xiangying": To obtain a line is like obtaining immortality; To be enlightened ..."