In 1962, at the height of the great famine in China, an extraordinarily gifted child was born into hardship in Xinxian, a small town in Henan Province. Cao Yong’s family, already struggling to find enough to eat, was suspected of disloyalty to the new government simply because a great-grandparent had once owned land, real estate, and banks, and because a grandparent had been a warlord. During the Cultural Revolution, this background singled the family out for harsh treatment by the Chinese authorities. Cao Yong's family was ostracized, refused residency permits, and even denied food. While other young children of his age started kindergarten, little Cao Yong began working. At age five, he found himself ferrying heavy baskets of gravel at a construction site. One day a rock pit caved in, nearly crushing the tiny boy to death under the rubble. Luckily, he survived.
Five years later, when Cao Yong was just sixteen, his family sold their only pig so that Cao Yong could afford to take the highly competitive National Entrance Exam of Art Universities. But before he could reach the capital city of Henan where the exam was to be held, his money and documents were stolen--and so was his portfolio. Cao Yong, in desperation, made an impassioned plea to the exam officials that he be allowed to take the exam; when the officials relented, Cao Yong scored the highest marks in five provinces. But it was to no avail; all the universities rejected him because of his family background.
To escape the political pressure and to pursue his love for untainted nature and humanity, Cao Yong, now twenty-one, volunteered to go to Tibet, where he became a professor of art at Tibet University. During his seven years in Tibet, Cao Yong immersed himself in the spare beauty of the isolated highlands, and embraced the distinctive Tibetan culture. With a thirsty spirit which perhaps unconsciously divined a more fulfilling future, the young teacher once trekked hundreds of miles over the Himalayas to the Tibetan border and smuggled himself into neighboring Nepal, just to drink in the air of freedom for a brief moment, before returning to Tibet. This journey of tribulation was described by Aya Goda in her book Escape. Published in Japan in 1995 by Bungei Shunju Publishing, Escape electrified readers and critics, and was awarded the Grand Prize for Non-Fiction from Kodansha Book Publishers, Japan’s most prestigious book award. Escape has been published in French and Spanish; an English version is scheduled for release in the near future.
In 1994, searching for tougher challenges and an international stage, Cao Yong emigrated to the United States. Inspired by the free-spirited American way of life, the prosperous and energetic society, and the spectacular landscapes, Cao Yong drove from Maine to Texas, from New York to Los Angeles. At last he felt that he could throw off the shackles which had so long weighed down his spirit, and experience both literal and artistic freedom.
The sincere jubilance of Cao Yong’s work has universal appeal. Collectors and art dealers zealously welcomed, and continue to welcome, Cao Yong’s new art. In order to satisfy the rapidly growing demand and to bring his art to a bigger audience, Cao Yong established his art publishing company, Cao Yong Editions, Inc., in 1999. Since then, The company has released four series of limited-edition prints: Venice, Golden Coast, Romantic Gardens, and Hawaii. Just announced is the forthcoming Paris series. His distribution network has covered the nation and it is now expanding into the Japanese, Canadian, and European markets.