Xu Bing was born into one of China's preeminent intellectual families. They subsequently suffered through the Cultural Revolution. Xu, then a teenager, was sent to work in the country side with peasants. He found he loved rural life and spent many hours drawing his surroundings. The 1980s opened new opportunities for Chinese artists. Xu was able to graduate from the prestigious Central Academy of Art in Beijing and was asked to stay on as an instructor in printmaking. By 1989 he became the leader of the New Wave of Fine Arts movement. He was one of China's first "art stars" in modern times, yet his social status caused him to suffer when the Tiananmen Square uprising resulted in a government crackdown on those who exhibited "bourgeois liberal tendencies." Shortly thereafter Xu came to the United States on a student visa to continue his international career. Xu had an exhibition at the North Dakota Museum of Art in the summer of 1992.
In July of 1999, Xu Bing was awarded the MacArthur Award for Genius by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in recognition of his originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy. In addition, Xu Bing was awarded the first Artes Mundi prize, a new art award created to stimulate interest in contemporary art in Wales.
Xu Bing, No. 2 Page 37 Of a Book From the Sky, 1987-91, woodcut, block ink on rice paper, Edition 54/100 15 in x 22 1/4 in
Xu Bing, No. 3 Page 1 of a Book From the Sky, 1987-91, woodcut, block ink on rice paper, Edition 6/20, 17 in x 20 1/2 in
Xu Bing, Holding the Brush, 1997, woodcut, block in k on rice paper, 28 1/2 in x 189 in