Zhou Maiyou was born in Chongqing in 1936. During his childhood he learned painting and calligraphy from his grandfather. In the 1940s, he went to Shanghai and learned charcoal drawing and oil painting from an exiled Judah artist. He joined the army in the 1950s and taught cultural courses there. In the 1960s, he studied in the Central College for Nationalities, and then went to Tibet. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he took part in the Stars Exhibition.