Liu Chia-cheng is a notable painter who combines Chinese and western techniques to illustrate door god figures that are realistic yet retain a sense of rustic tradition. Liu also restores temple art, for which he was named a “national living treasure” by the Ministry of Culture in June 2016 in recognition of his significant role in preserving the traditional Taiwanese craft.
Inspired by his uncle-in-law and religious painter Ceng Zhu-gen (曾竹根), Liu developed an interest in painting from an early age and followed Ceng everywhere to do sketches of nature. After finishing high school, Liu left his hometown to pursue a career in painting.
While learning to paint Buddha figures from Ceng in Tainan, Liu also learned to paint temples and gods from notable painters including Ding Wang (丁網), Pan Li-shui (潘麗水), and Tsai Cao (蔡草). He studied under the tutelage of Yunpeng Craft Society (雲鵬工藝社) for ten years.
Liu became a professional painter in 1980 and began his career by painting for notable temples such as Guandu Temple (關渡宮), Tamsui Qing Shui Temple (淡水祖師廟), Lungshan Temple of Manka (艋舺龍山寺), and Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮).
Though Liu acquired traditional painting skills during his training, he later developed his own style of religious painting without losing touch with his cultural roots. He learned western styles and integrated watercolors and oil painting techniques to better capture facial expressions and muscle movements in portraiture.
Liu’s works now encompass door gods, temple decorations, murals, and Chinese paintings, as well as the restoration of damaged temple art. His door god paintings are most celebrated and Liu received the Taipei Master of Traditional Arts Award in 2011.
During his leisure time, Liu visits different temples in both cities and towns to study the different expression of each door god. This routine has deepened his deft skills in illustrating the structure, face, and pose of different door gods.
With a career spanning over four decades, Liu notes that he no longer sketches drafts for each new piece. Rather, he lets temples inspire him upon each visit, using his creativity to bring figures to life by giving them lively facial expressions.