The artistic career of Yu Cheng-Yao is a phenomenon in modern Chinese art. In the history of Chinese painting there has been no parallel to his development. He came to the scene late in his life, and finally blossomed into one of the most important Chinese painters of contemporary art in the last several years of his life.
In 1954, at the age of 56, Yu Cheng-Yao began his work in painting and calligraphy as a serious hobby after he retired from the Nationalist armies where he had served as a General. He had had no formal training in either painting or calligraphy, yet he immersed himself in the arts while researching the history of Nan-kuan Southern Music, an ancient genre born in his native province of Fujian. During the thirty years in the military he had climbed over most of China's majestic mountains both in the north and the south. At the time of his release, he followed the government to Taiwan and years later he painted what had been etched indelibly in his mind, over the years of repeated spiritual homecomings, the granite peaks and distant vistas experienced while clambering over the myriad ridges, with provisions strapped to his back, during one or the other of the seemingly endless series of military campaigns he had served, first as foot soldier, rising up gradually through the ranks, finally reaching the rank of a General.