By Malcolm Moore
Born in 1955 (click here) to intellectual parents in Changchun, the capital of the northern province of Jilin, Liu spent his teenage years in Inner Mongolia.
His father had been sent there, as part of Chairman Mao's "Down to the Countryside" campaign, to correct his bourgeois tendencies and learn from the farmers and villagers. Liu spent his late teens and early 20s working as an unskilled labourer.
After Mao's death, in 1976, Liu returned to Jilin and enrolled at university to study Chinese literature. He went on to teach at Beijing Normal University in 1984, completing his PhD four years later.
As a poet and writer, Liu met his wife, Liu Xia, also a poet. They married in 1996. However, he was married once before and has a son, Liu Tao.
"Neither his son or his first wife has appeared in public for many years," said Liao Tienchi, a fellow writer.
At the beginning of his academic career, Liu caused a sensation with his withering assessments of Chinese writers and intellectuals, whose work he decried as mediocre. He said there was "nothing good" to say about mainland Chinese authors not "because they were not allowed to write, but because they cannot write".
"He could be overbearing, and at times unbearable. But his critical lance was accompanied by genuine courage and political conviction," wrote Jianying Zha, one of his friends and a fellow writer, in the New Yorker magazine....