Liu Zongyuan was born in 773 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in what is now Yuncheng of north China's Shanxi province. He was a well-learned scholar and excelled at debating. He passed the imperial examination at the age of 21 and became an official in the central government. Eager to fight corruption, he teamed up with his peers to launch a reform to deprive eunuch cliques of their political powers, which largely contributed to the corruption of the political scene at the time. However, they failed, and Liu was demoted to a minor official in a region in what is now Hunan province. Later on, he was further demoted and sent to Liuzhou, located in the present-day Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of South China. Sinking into a deep depression, he passed away while residing there at the age of 46 on Nov. 28, 819.
As a philosopher, Liu was a believer of materialism and antitheism. As a writer, he left an abundant legacy of fables, travel writings, poems, biographies and letters. When presenting pictures of society, he always expressed his ideology in his works.