See studies by G. Kao (1980) and D. D. Wang (1992).
Between 1918 and 1924 he was involved as administrator and faculty member at a number of primary and secondary schools in Beijing and Tianjin. He was highly influenced by the May Fourth Movement (1919). He stated, "[The] May Fourth [Movement] gave me a new spirit and a new literary language. I am grateful to [The] May Fourth [Movement], as it allowed me to become a writer."
He went on to serve as lecturer in the Chinese section of the (then) School of Oriental Studies (now the School of Oriental and African Studies) at the University of London from 1924 to 1929. During his time in London, he absorbed a great deal of English literature and began his own writing. His later novel 二马 (Ma and Son) drew on these experiences.
In the summer of 1929, he left Britain for Singapore, teaching at the Chinese High School 华侨中学). Between his return to China in the spring of 1930 until 1937, he taught at several universities, including Cheeloo University (齐鲁大学) and Shandong University (Qingdao).
The outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45) radically altered Lao She's views. Between the years 1937 and 1945 he wrote a number of plays, worked as a propagandist, and headed the All-China Anti-Japanese Writers Federation. After World War II Lao She published a gigantic novel in three parts, Sishi Tongtang (abridged translation The Yellow Storm). It dealt with life in Peking during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Between the years 1946 and 1949 Lao She lived in the United States on a cultural grant at the invitation of the Department of State. When the People's Republic was established in 1949, Lao She returned to China.
Like thousands of other intellectuals in China, he experienced mistreatment in the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s. Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution had attacked him as a counterrevolutionary. They paraded him through the streets and beat him in public. Greatly humiliated both mentally and physically, he committed suicide by drowning himself in a Beijing lake in 1966. His relatives were accused of implication in his "crimes" but continued to rescue his manuscripts after his death, hiding them in coal piles and a chimney and moving them from house to house.
He was married to Hu Jieqing and they had four children, one son and three daughters.
Among Lao Shê's most famous stories is 'Crescent Moon', written in the early stage of his creative life. It depicts the miserable life of a mother and daughter and their deterioration into prostitution. "I used to picture an ideal life, and it would be like a dream," the daughter thinks. "But then, as cruel reality again closed in on me, the dream would quickly pass, and I would feel worse than ever. This world is no dream - it's a living hell. " (from 'Crescent Moon')
Lao She was a member of the Cultural and Educational Committee in the Government Administration Council, a deputy to the National People's Congress, a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Literature and Art and vice-chairman of the Union of Chinese Writers as well as chairman of the Beijing Federation of Literature and Art. He was named a 'People's Artist' and a 'Great Master of Language'. His plays, such as Long Xugou(1951, Dragon Beard Ditch), became ideologically didactic, and did not reach the level of his former work. Shen Ruan written in 1960, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Boxer uprising, was a four-act play about the Boxers. Lao She emphasized the anti-imperialistic zeal of the Boxers and the burning and killing carried out by the allied powers. During the Cultural Revolution, Lao She was publicly denounced and criticized, as a number of other writers and intellectuals. On October 24, 1966, Lao She was murdered or driven to suicide. His last novel, The Drum Singers (1952), was first published in English in the United States.
His other important works include Si Shi Tong Tang (四世同堂, abridged translation The Yellow Storm, directly translated into "Four Generations under One Roof" 1944–1950), a novel describing the life of the Chinese people during the Japanese Occupation; Cat Country (猫城记) a satire which is sometimes seen as the first important Chinese science fiction novel, Cha Guan (茶馆, "Teahouse"), a play written in 1957; and Lao Zhang de Zhexue (老张的哲学, "The Philosophy of Old Zhang"), his first published novel, written in London (1926).
Lao She's most frequently performed plays is Cha Guan (Teahouse), which was written in 1957. The events are set in the Beijing teahouse of Wang Lifa during three different periods: 1898 under the empire, the 1910s under the warlords and around 1945 after WW II. "In the teahouses one could hear the most absurd stories," Lao She writes of the scene set in 1898, "such as how a in a certain place a huge spider had turned into a demon and was then struck by lightning. One could also come in contact with the strangest of views; for example, that foreign troops could be prevented from landing by building a Great Wall along the sea coast." Lao She follows the lives of Wang and his customers. Ambivalently Wang and his friends demonstrate the failure of their lives towards the end by a mock funeral, welcoming the new society. The teahouse is requisitioned as a club and Wang is offered a job as doorman - however, he has already hanged himself. - The Beijing People's Art Theatre performed the play in 1980 in West Germany and France during the three-hundredth anniversary of the Comédie-Française.
The Laoshe Tea House (老舍茶馆), a popular tourist attraction in Beijing that opened in 1988 and features regular performances of traditional music, is named for Lao She.