An American writer of fantasy novels, he was best known for The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox trilogy. His other works include The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen.
He graduated from Columbia University in 1956 and served in the United States Air Force until 1960. He published his first novel, Bridge of Birds, in 1984.
His literary work reflects his lifelong interest in China.
He grew up in Peoria, Illinois as the son of a naval officer and an architect.
He cited Alexandre Dumas as a literary influence.