This article aims to investigate the roles Liu Zaifu has played in his three voyages of life. As an outspoken writer and public intellectual who rose to prominence in China during the early 1980s, Liu was a typical pioneer and enlightener, as well as a leading literary theorist involved in the construction of a rising China who reflected on the existing cultural-literary paradigm dominated by Marxist ideology. After going into exile in the United States in 1989, he commenced his second life journey by retreating to a personal space while embracing an aesthetic of wandering. He took advantage of the peripheries of both Western and Chinese cultures to discover the location of the “third zone” from which to return to the original self and the pure heart influenced by Zen Buddhism. In his third life journey, he completely identified with a cosmopolitan status, which enabled him to transcend political and cultural boundaries. Liu's three distinct roles at three different stages of life—a Chinese scholar, an exile, a cosmopolitan—exemplify a fluctuating spiritual odyssey of a Chinese intellectual whose profoundly multifarious oeuvre is intertwined with his quest for personal freedom in literature.

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