Shen was born in 1950 in Wuhan, Hubei province. His family was poor, but he was very good in school and was admitted to the best mid-school in Wuhan. His ideal major was Tsinghua University's Civil Engineering and Architecture but because of the Cultural Revolution he was forced to go to rural areas and work as a farmer. He lost the opportunity to go to university and did not even have the chance to go to high school. His life was very poor and difficult in the countryside. He had a talent for drawing and started to draw portraits of the dead just for his next meal, many times from the corpses, before the bodies were buried. He gained respect among the local community, and was regarded as a distinguished guest. Through this hard life he found that he loved to draw. His artistic fame first began before he had even taken formal training. In 1972 he painted a work depicting a Chinese soldier taking his two children to see a sculpture that reflects the hard life of farmers before 1949, when they were oppressed by landowners. The painting titled "Do Not Forget the Past" had an enormous social effect. It was shown on the news and the Hubei Province published millions of copies of this oil painting that were issued and had great influence nationwide. In the 1980's, he became famous as a book illustrator, and from 1984-1986 was the editor for Changjiang Literature and Art, a literary periodical at Hubei Fine Art Publishing House. In 1986, Shen entered Wuhan Art Academy and became a professional artist. Throughout the 1990s his oil paintings were frequently exhibited in national fine art exhibitions and in 1995 Shen became a member of the Chinese National Artists Association. He later served as the Director of the Wuhan Artists Association where he had once studied.
Ross first learned of Shen in 2001 when Ross and the ARC Board of Judges admitted him to the Art Renewal Center's Living Master's Gallery. In 2003 he immigrated to the USA after Ross purchased three of his works. The move was important to his daughter's education and because Shen always wanted to travel and see the world, though he still frequents his home country and has many ties there. About his work Shen says the following "My paintings depict the most basic level (grass roots) of everyman in China. I represent the goodness of human nature and my figures tend to have the expression of hope in their eyes which shows the yearning for a better life." His works fall under three main categories, woman and children in rural area's, paintings of the Red Guard, and paintings of the workers of China with particular interest in painters. Shen depicts the importance of human existence, the importance of the past, and the importance of the human connection to nature and the world that one lives in using powerful psychological imagery. Shen has been honored with solo shows within the US and China and has been featured in numerous other shows including the First Chinese Oil Paintings Annual Exhibition, '92, Contemporary Chinese Oil Paintings Exhibition, '93, Chinese Oil Paintings Annual Exhibition, the Third National Sports Art Exhibition, the Eighth National Fine Art Exhibition, the Second Chinese Oil Paintings Exhibition, the Fourth National Sports Art Exhibition, Contemporary Oil Paintings Exhibition of China on Hong Kong's Return and many others. Among those works,"Longing for the Soccer Field" won the Third Class Award of the Fourth National Sports Art Exhibition, "Colorful World" won the Excellent Works of the Eighth National Fine Art Exhibition he was selected for the crucial exhibition in Japan for the "Album of Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition". Most recently he has been featured in the 2011/2012 Art Renewal Center International Salon, winning the award for Best Social Commentary.