Sanyu, autonym Chang Youshu, was born in Sichuan province. He was good at calligraphy and enrolled in Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts in 1917. In 1919 he went to Paris on a work-study basis. Sanyu lived in Paris most of the time and his artworks were often exhibited in salons and major galleries. In 1948, his works were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The National Museum of History in Taipei keeps more than 40 masterpieces of Sanyu's oil paintings and has been regularly organising his retrospective exhibitions and academic research since 1978.
Sanyu pursued spiritual freedom throughout his life. His friend Wang Jigang described him this way: "His hobbies were all natural and he was such gentleman...". Everyone knows that Sanyu loved nude ladies. He regarded the appreciation of the beauty of the human body as a physiological requirement, necessary luxury and an unavoidable hobby, preferring to feed the "eyes" rather than eat and wear. His works of female nudes apply individualised and abstract artistic expressions. The lines are smooth and simple. He painted western beauties but the oriental technique was showed incisively and vividly. At the same time, he tried to break through the constraints of the traditional pattern. Most of Sanyu's works are full-bodied and fat ladies, even the slim ones are fullbodied and charming.
His works of flowers and animals are also only outlined with pure lines. His works of animals mostly show the vast and indistinct situation of the earth. In the centre of the paintings, there are often single figures or groups of animals. They are so small and lonely compared to the boundless world. This also seems to reflect the lonely encounter of Sanyu in his later years.