Liu was born in 1963 in the small industrial town of Jincheng, a pulp and paper-producing center in Liaoning province. At age 17 he moved to Beijing to study art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. (中央美术学院) He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in oil painting in 1988, and a Master of Fine Art in oil painting in 1995, both from CAFA. In 1998–99 he continued his studies overseas at the Academy of Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain. He now holds tenure as a professor in the painting department at CAFA.
1990: Began participating with the Chinese Independent Film Movement, starting as the lead role in The Days, which was named one of the top 100 most important international films of the past century by the BBC.
1993: Art Director for movie: Beijing Bastards.