She famously exchanging verses with Chen Zilong, and was noted for her painting. Believed to have been born in Jiaxing, Liu was sold by her family as a concubine to the Prime Minister Zhou Daodeng. At the age of thirteen, a scandal led to her expulsion from Zhou"s household, and she was sold to a brothel in Suzhou.
At seventeen, she had her first major love affair, with the painter Tang Shuda.
Already a noted poet and painter herself at this early age, she met Chen Zilong in 1635 and lived with him for about a year, eventually leaving after his family disapproved of their liaison. After leaving Chen, she managed a brothel in Wujiang.
An affair with the artist Wang Janming ended when Wang failed to attend an appointment with her at the Rainbow Pavilion. Another affair with Song Yuanwen, a government official, ended when his vacillations over marriage resulted in Liu smashing her lute and storming off in a fit of pique.