In 1962 at the height of the great famine in China, an extraordinarily gifted child was born in Xinxian, a small town in Henan province. Cao Yong's family, struggling to find enough food to eat, was suspected of disloyalty to the government. A great-great grandparent once owned land, real estate and banks, and a great grandparent was a warlord. In the Cultural Revolution, this singled the family out for harsh treatment by the Chinese authorities. The family were ostracized, denied food and residency permits.
At age five , he nearly lost his life while carrying heavy baskets of gravel at a construction site. The rock pit caved in, crushing the small boy under the rubble. It was drawing that brought peace and consolation to Cao. At age eleven he started studying with the noted artist Yu Ren from Beijing, who worked briefly in Xinxian. Yu Ren accepted Cao Yong as his youngest student and became Cao Yong's first mentor. The shadow of ostracism followed him, but Cao Yong's unusual persistence challenged him to paint, and paint better, despite persecution from teachers and students. In order to buy art supplies he pawned his winter cloths in summer and his summer cloths in winter, and often skipped meals. He painted on any material he could find: used wrapping paper, newspaper, discarded wooden boards. When once his mother brought him a bundle of dirty cloth that she had begged from a store, Cao Yong burst into "tears of joy" at last he had canvas!
Because his family background was considered politically questionable by the Chinese authorities, the young Cao Yong had to endure unimaginable hardships in order to continue his training. Many years later, upon graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Hanna University, he took a position as Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Tibet.
During his seven years in Tibet, Cao Yong immersed himself in the spare beauty of the remote and isolated land, and embraced the distinctive Tibetan culture. In order to copy the remains of ancient Tibetan wall paintings, Cao Yong, accompanied only by a horse, a dog, and a gun for hunting, lived alone in primitive mountain caves for nearly one full year. Cao Yong's legendary experience in Tibet enabled him to develop a deep understanding of the connection between the natural and the human, as well as between the secular and spiritual. It is this understanding that breathes life into his exquisite images, and makes his work both powerful and, in the most classical sense, romantic.
Cao Yong's experience in Tibet resulted in a remarkable series of paintings, entitled, "The Split Layer of Earth Mount Kailas". In this series, the artist reveals the conflict between the physical and the spiritual realms, but also plunges into the deeper layer of social, -political and religious struggles in Tibet. Exhibited at the Beijing Artist Gallery, these intensely emotional paintings earned Cao Yong the enthusiastic praise of the international press, as well as lecture engagements at the embassies of France, Spain, Mexico and Bolivia.
In 1989, Cao Yong took up residence in Japan. While he continued painting his Tibet series, he also accepted commissions for the painting of numerous city murals. The artist was extolled by the Japanese press as a "genius" upon his completion of several monumental murals of dragons, regarded as the largest single images of dragons in the world. During this period, Cao Yong's work was exhibited in the prominent Shibuya Gallery, Gallery Bamboo, and the O Art Museum in Tokyo, as well as in the Yunghan Art Gallery in Taipei.
In 1994, Cao Yong came to the United States. Since then, his work has been displayed in prominent galleries.
In 1999, Cao Yong established his publishing company Cao Yong Editions, Inc. and released three series of limited editions: Venice, the Golden Coast and Romantic Gardens. His art has been purchased by tens of thousands of enthusiastic collectors throughout the country and around the world. Cao Yong's original paintings are highly sought after.
What sets Cao Yong apart from other artists is not only his radiant palette, his inviting compositions, or his masterly brushwork. It is the deep humanity engendered by Cao Yong's extraordinary life that has enabled him to develop a rare understanding of the connection between light and shadow, the natural and the divine. This profound understanding breathes life into Cao Yong's paintings.
Cao Yong's biography, Escape, which depicts his life in China, has been published in French, Japanese and Spanish; it is being translated to English and will be released soon.
Currently living in Los Angeles, Cao Yong is just reaching his artistic maturity. Since 1999, he has released several different series on varied themes: From the dazzling California coastline to the peaceful canals of Venice, and the fragrant vitality of romantic gardens, Cao Yong continues to capture the timeless romance and beauty that surround us-- and which are, after all, our most precious human possessions.