Civil service career
His civil service career was initially successful, but in 805 he fell from favour because of his association with a failed reformist movement. He was exiled first to Yongzhou, Hunan, and then to Liuzhou, Guangxi. However, this setback allowed his literary career to flourish: he produced poems, fables, reflective travelogues and essays sythesizing elements of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.
His best-known travel pieces are the Eight Records of Excursions in Yongzhou (永州八记). Around 180 of his poems are extant. Some of his works celebrate his freedom from office, while others mourn his banishment.