Yu passed the state examination 清 (1644-1911) as a metropolitan graduate (jinshi 進士) in 1850 and was appointed junior compiler (bianxiu 編修) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, later provincial education commissioner (tidu xuezheng 提督學政) of Henan. After resigning from this position he withdrew to Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu, where he became a private teacher.
From 1868 on, Yu Yue was director of the Gujing Jingshe Academy 詁經精舍, which he headed for more than 30 years. One of his most important disciples was Zhang Taiyan 章太炎 (1869-1936).
Yu Yue's philosophy was inclined to the teachings of Wang Niansun 王念孫 (1744-1832) and his son Wang Yinzhi 王引之 (1766-1834) who had interpreted the Confucian Classics in a very practical way. This school of interpreters also studied the writings of the masters and philosophers, philological texts and ancient dictionaries, and also novels written in a vernacular language. In his book Qunqing pingyi 群經平議, Yu Yue followed the scholarly approach of Wang Yinzhi's book Jingyi shuwen 經義述聞, an analysis of the whole corpus of Confucian Classics.
His book Gushu yiyi juli 古書疑義舉例 is an analysis of errors that were commonly seen in the interpretation of classical texts as a consequence of a different understanding of grammar or words. He lists 88 systematic errors that he explains point by point. This book received great attention when it was published. Yu Yue used the methods of the analysis of the Confucian Classics in order to interprete writings of the masters and philosophers, and compiled the collection Zhuzi pingyi 諸子平議. It includes comments to the Daoist writings Baopuzi 抱朴子, Huainanzi 淮南子, the book Gongsun Longzi 公孫龍子, the legalist classic Hanfeizi 韓非子, and also to the histories Songshiyi 宋史翼 and Yizhoushu 逸周書.
Apart from these scholarly findings, Yu Yue published a high-class version to the popular romance Sanxia wuyi 三俠五義, with the new title of Qixia wuyi 七俠五義.
Although Yu Yue stands in the tradition of the old-text philological school, he had also contact with Song Xiangfeng 宋翔鳳 (1779-1860) and Zhuang Cunyu 莊存與 (1719-1788), protagonists of the new-text Changzhou School 常州學派 which studied the Gongyang Commentary 公羊傳 to the Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" and saw these texts as carriers of political messages.
Yu Yue's collected writings are called Chunzaitang quanji 春在堂全書.