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A portrait of the artist as a young Tibetan

(Xinhua)    20:34, April 17, 2015

XINING, April 17 -- In one of his early paintings, Goinbotobden drew himself. "Prefab Classroom" shows the artist and seven other kids huddled round a book. Through the classroom windows two blue tents bearing Chinese characters for "disaster relief" are clearly visible.

Goinbotobden is from in Yushu Prefecture in northwest China's Qinghai Province. The scenery is beautiful and mountainous, but the climate is harsh, with long, cold winters and short, wet summers. In the Spring of 2010, a powerful earthquake killed nearly 3,000 people there, completely flattening the town of Gyegu.

Goinbotobden was 11 years old when his life was shaken apart. Thrown to the ground in the courtyard of Gyegu orphanage, he injured his right arm. He watched terrified as buildings collapsed around him and the lifeless bodies of villagers disappeared under landslides. When the quake was over, weeping crowds of survivors began the search for their loved ones and lost possessions. "Prefab Classroom" was painted in the aftermath of this destruction.

The oldest of four children, Goinbotobden was sent to the orphanage at the age of eight, the year he began primary school. He has never met his father and his ailing mother was unable to bring up all her kids on her own.

His home village of Kyichu was largely unaffected by the quake, and with the orphanage destroyed, he was bandaged up and sent back to his mother for a month. "My mom cried and so did our neighbors," he said. "They felt guilty; as if they were to blame for my injuries."

The previously taciturn boy became interested in painting shortly after he returned to school. Prefabs were put up as makeshift classrooms while a new school was being built and soon he was painting everything he saw (and some things he did not): prefab houses, tents, monasteries, relief workers and the gods Tibetans revere. He also painted an imaginary portrait of his father as a kindly old gentleman in a crimson robe, with a wide-brimmed hat and glasses.

The man who actually gave him fatherly love was Banru Deleg, head of the orphanage. From Nangqen County like Goinbotobden, Banru Deleg had watched his mother die while giving birth to his twin sisters. He left home at 16 to study Buddhism, first in Qinghai and then in Sichuan and Beijing, before he returned home to manage the orphanage.

"We Tibetans believe life is an eternal cycle of birth, death and reincarnation," he said. "I willingly serve others and trust that my kindness will pay off."

Banru Deleg was astonished by Goinbotobden's art and encouraged him to develop his talent. In 2011, Goinbotobden was among a group of 10 children in Yushu chosen to learn painting under a charity program sponsored by oil painter Zhou Chunya, famous for his "Green Dog" series.

The kids learned both Chinese and Western painting skills and worked under a renowned local Thangka painter, who taught them the basics of the traditional Tibetan art.

Last year, some of the students' paintings were exhibited at the United Nationsheadquarters in New York and Goinbotobden attended the opening ceremony.

Zhou Wenyun, the program's art director, describes Goinbotobden's work as bright and full of vitality. "He clearly portrays the life and landscapes of his hometown," said Zhou.

Throughout his U.S. tour, Goinbotobden wore a Tibetan robe, a gift from Banru Deleg. "I felt homesick all the time," he said.

During an art class at Poly Prep Country Day School in New York, he made a yak from clay. "Nothing could stop me from missing home," he said.

Goinbotobden describes painting as telling stories on a scroll.

"When I grow up," said the young artist, "I'll teach the children from my hometown to paint their own stories."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Bianji)

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