Yang Wanli was one of the so-called Four Masters of the Southern Song, the others being Lu Yu, Fan Chengda and Yu Mao.|
A native of Jizhou, Jiangxi he earned his jinshi degree in 1154 and started his official career and reached the position of Director of the Imperial Library. His main interest in life was, as he wrote himself, "I have loved nothing else, I have only loved literature. As other men have loved beautiful women, I have loved poetry". Some four thousand of his poems survive.
Yang had a strong interst in Chan Buddhism and meditation.