Zheng Xie was born in Xinghua near Yangzhou in present-day Jiangsu province. Although his family lived in genteel poverty, Zheng was a good student and passed the highest government exams in 1736. He studied and produced poetry, calligraphy, and painting, while ably serving as district magistrate in Shandong province. Undisciplined, outspoken, and passionate about public service, Zheng resigned in frustration in 1753 and established himself as a distinctive member of the group known as the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou. He is best known as an artist who closely integrated calligraphy with orchid and bamboo paintings.
His poem reads: