Acute lung injury (ALI)/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is an acute progressive respiratory failure caused by severe infection, trauma, shock, poisoning, inhaled harmful gas, acute pancreatitis, and pathological obstetrics. ALI and ARDS demonstrate similar pathophysiological changes. The severe stage of ALI is defined as ARDS. At present, a significant progress has been achieved in the study of the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of ALI/ARDS. Whether or not ALI/ARDS patients can recover depends on the degree of lung injury, extra-pulmonary organ damage, original primary disease of a patient, and adequacy in supportive care. Conservative infusion strategies and protective lung ventilation reduce ARDS disability and mortality. In this study, the pathogenesis of ALI/ARDS, lung injury, molecular mechanisms of lung repair, and conservative infusion strategies and pulmonary protective ventilation are reviewed comprehensively.