Ji-cai Feng was born in Tianjin, China, in 1942. His father was an entrepreneur and his mother came from a line of scholar-bureaucrats. As a youth he led a sheltered life and has been described by a friend as having been "a naive, sentimental dreamer who lived in a fantasy world of poetry, painting, and music." He was also a mischievous child, talented and creative, but mediocre scholastically. Feng first wanted to be a painter, and he showed promise, winning a citywide painting competition while he was still in high school. But his height attracted the attention of the coach of the Tianjin Men's Basketball Team, and he ended up playing professional basketball until he resigned because of numerous injuries. He then entered the Tianjin Calligraphy and Painting Society, where he worked making copies of famous paintings for export, but he hated the work, which lacked any intellectual or artistic challenge. The Cultural Revolution in China changed everything for him. One day on the street, he was attacked by Red Guards who cut off his hair, and then his family's home was ransacked and his works of art destroyed. From then on life was difficult, and he and his young wife had to struggle to earn enough money to live on. During this bleak period, he first began to write secretly, moved by the intensity of emotion he felt toward the terror of the events that he was witnessing. Tragically, his manuscripts from this period were lost during the collapse of his house in the great Tangshan earthquake in 1976. Feng began to publish his fiction in 1977, first sticking to safe historical novels and then in 1979 branching out into contemporary themes. His "Chrysanthemums" won a prize in a 1979 short story competition. He now writes full-time and is vice-chairman of the Tianjin branch of the Chinese Writer's Association.