A special Thangka painter's journey to art


One winter morning, the 29-year-old Dondrup Chophel got up. He first had a bowl of Tibetan noodles, then made a pot of yak butter tea and put it within his reach. Then, he added water to mineral colors for Thangka painting in a small electric pot, warmed the mixture until the colors melted, then blended the colors.

This is the preparation Chophel does every day before he creates Thangka painting. Then, he moves himself from his wheelchair to a Tibetan-style day bed near the window and begins his work for the day, coloring the Thangka painting.

Wheelchair-user Chophel is an unique Thangka painting artist. When he was two years old, polio caused him to become paralyzed in his lower body.

He had great grades in his elementary and middle-school years. His dream was to go to college, majoring in literature or something similar, and become a writer when he graduated.

But the journey to college was very challenging. During elementary school, his school was next to his house, so his parents or relatives were able to help carry him back and forth. In 2006, he started middle school. His classroom was on the third floor, and with the school's help, his classroom and dormroom was moved to the first floor and he was able to continue school.

"I was even the class supervisor in middle school," said Chophel proudly. During middle school, his grades were always top among his peers, he was even accepted to a Lhasa high school with a high score. Later on, due to various reasons, he stopped his studies and came back home.

"I was really sad, I thought my dream was slipping further and further away," said Chophel. After feeling listless for one month, he decided to take his uncle's advice and study Thangka painting.