He was born in Jinjiang, Fujian province, the descendant of a woman from which his seven generation grand father married. He is also often referred to by his courtesy name Zhuowu .
His philosophy was based upon the Neo-Confucianism. Strongly disagreeing with assimilating oneself to conventional behavior, Li Zhi tried to spread his ideas. He can be seen as influenced Wang Yangming , and he preached a form of moral relativism. However, he was ultimately jailed for his attempt to spread "dangerous ideas". He committed suicide in prison in 1602.