Jiang was born in 1938, in Ningbo, Zhejiiang Province, in China. Even as a child he displayed a great love and talent for painting and drawing, and early on he knew the course his life would take.
In 1959, in a highly competitive exam he won admission to the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. From 1962-64 he studied with the famous Chinese artist Huang Yong-yu, who first exposed him to the paintings from the Dunguang caves. In 1964 he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. This was the last class to graduate before the cultural revolution. Jiang also learned about traditional Chinese art, an influence which would remain with him. Upon graduation in 1964 Jiang and a small number of other artists volunteered to go down to the Yunnan province. This turned out to be a blessing. This beautiful province is on the Vietnamese border. It is lush and tropical, filled with exotic flora and fauna,and is home to more than 20 different minority peoples.
His new home allowed his talents to burst forth. Jiang's talent was so obvious that from 1966-73 the Chinese Government assigned him to produce "Socialist Realism" propaganda posters and sculptures during the Cultural Revolution. He even painted the famous large red-faced poster of Chairman Mao. But this sterile exercise did nothing to release the emotional side of Jiang's nature, and at night he worked in his small room, on his bed, to create his own style. The natural beauty of the Yunnan province inspired him. With two other artists, He Neng and Liu Shaohui, Jiang secretly formed the nucleus of what was first called the "Heavy Colorist" school and is now known as the "Yunnan School," began.
The secret and essence of Jiang's work is best expressed by the artist himself:
"An artist is not a photographer; my work is my understanding of life. It is difficult for me to remember what distances I have traveled, how many mountains I have climbed, how many rivers I have crossed, and how many villages I have passed through. I can only recall the countless joyous moments and hardships of the past years from the many pictures I have painted. My deep love of the colorful earth and for Xishuangbanna, a region of the Yunnan Province, has encouraged me to explore and create unceasingly. Such a mysterious land blessed with unique beauty offers innumerable subjects to be painted. My paintings are not only pictures: they are also music and poetry that is bewitching, sweet dreams that are being dreamed."