Chiu Ya Tsai

(aka Qiu Yacai)

Chiu Ya-tsai (real name Tien-tsai); born in 1949 in Suao to a simple working-class farming family.
Chiu’s grades at school were not exceptional and he quit school after junior high school. However he remained keen to continue to educate himself. Chiu moved to Taipei at 16 where he worked as an editor in a comic publisher. During his national military service Chiu started to read the New Art and Literature magazine which featured the work of Chinese and foreign writers and got to know the work of Yukio Mishima. Later, he began reading more widely, including the work of Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, and even Sima Qian's "Records of the Grand Historian". Chiu Ya-tsai once said that reading a lot of classic works during his military service “enlightened” him and was a key influence on his later paintings and writing.

Chiu Ya-tsai only started painting aged 30. Before becoming a professional painter he did many different manual labor jobs. In the early 1980s, Chiu Ya-tsai frequented the Wistaria Teahouse in Taipei, a gathering place for thinkers and social activists.He also held exhibitions at the cafe and made connections, and his paintings began to get noticed. As a full-time painter and writer, Chiu Ya-tsai would paint in the day and write at night. In 1993 he published his first anthology, The Rogue, and in 1994 he won the Wu Cho Prize for Literature with Laoching the Alcoholic. Chiu suffered from Alzheimer's disease in later life and his health and memory deteriorated. He died in April 2013 at home, at the age of 64. (

... A loner and an underachiever in school, he began his mandatory military service and at the same time began to read.... His portraits of Taiwan's modern-day literati are greatly influenced by the figure painting of the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD) seen in the hooked noses and almond-shaped... (
change photo
remove photo

First Collected by

Valerie Wee


Contributors 1

Related Artists

+ add artist