Moying Li grew up in Beijing, China during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). During that period, Moying was primarily self-taught, following the reading lists her father, who had been a prominent screenwriter, sent to her from a "hard labor camp." In 1977, when the China National Entrance Examination system was finally reinstated for the first time in ten years, Moying was among the first post-Cultural Revolution students to be accepted by Beijing Foreign Studies University. Two years later, she was selected to graduate ahead of schedule to join the faculty of her school. In 1980, thanks to a generous scholarship and a plane ticket from Swarthmore College, Moying left Beijing and traveled to the United States to pursue graduate studies. For the next ten years she immersed herself in what she had always craved, the unrestricted pursuit of knowledge.