He hailed from Wuyuan 武原 (modern Peixian 邳縣, Jiangsu) and was an expert in the five Confucian Classics, especially of the Lu 魯 tradition of the Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs". His contemporarians compared him with the Confucian scholar Gong Sheng 龔勝 and called both "the two Gongs of Chu" 楚兩龔.
During the reign of Emperor Ai 漢哀帝 (r. 7-1 BCE) he was recommended by Gong Sheng and was appointed Grand master of remonstrance (jian dafu 諫大夫), later governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Taishan 太山 and then Grand Master of Splendid Happiness (guanglu dafu 光祿大夫). His memorial offering resignation was not accepted by the emperor, so that he returned to his hometown. He continued to be highly esteemed as an advisor to government officials and was often consulted for advice.