Cao Liwei was born in 1956 in Liaoning province, and he has always been interested in landscape painting. From 1978 to 1982, he was a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, where he won first prize at his graduation exhibition.
From 1981 to 1985, he traveled extensively throughout the Qinghai and Gansu Provinces and into Tibet. In 1985, he was awarded the silver medal at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts. His work has been shown in Canada, France, Japan and the United States. He currently resides in Southern California.