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Profile: The challenged Chinese youngster with an art work displayed in the Louvre

Zuo Wenjun has never been to France. However, a painting by the 34-year-old man had crossed the continent and was on exhibit in the Louvre in France, some 8,000 kilometres away.

The painting, Mount Kangrinboqe, was shown at a three-day La Lumiere exhibition in April and was completed by a man from northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a child.

Admitting that he hasn't been to Xizang, where Mount Kangrinboqe is located, Zuo said that the artwork was based on his "observation of photos and philosophical thinking." "Painting is the best thing that I can do," said the man proudly.

Born into a working-class family, Zuo found it hard to balance his body from a young age due to the illness, later he only learned to walk at the age of eight. The scars on his knees are visible even today.

Not able to run around like other children, he fell in love with reading. Reminiscing, his parents gave him a box of chalks to play with, and he drew a few squares on the ground with his hands shaking. All these activities stirred him to begin his painting dream.

He became an art student in junior high school. When learning sketching, he tried his best to draw straight lines but often found himself unable to control his hands well. He used a dozen pencils a day, which meant his mother had to spend a couple of hours in the evening sharpening pencils for him.

"I had good ideas but I couldn't control my hands, which made me really fretful," Zuo recalled. "However, the harder it was, the more I wanted to break the limit of my body."

Practice makes perfect. Zuo later became a student at Ningxia University majoring in art, before pursuing further studies at the Chinese National Academy of Art in Beijing.

His wife Ma Chanyuan was a good companion during the process, as she encouraged him to pursue his dream. "I am very grateful to her. Without her I wouldn't be brave enough to go to Beijing," Zuo said emotionally. On her birthday, he copied Van Gogh's "Irises" as a gift for her, and the flower stands for "the messenger of love."

Ma, an accounting major, has spent three years learning painting from her husband. "He is optimistic and cheerful, but at the same time, he thinks deeply. He gave me a lot of guidance and made me fall in love with art."

Now studying psychology, she aims to help more people living with disabilities as well as encourage them to learn the art of painting with her husband.

Zuo has donated more than 400,000 yuan (about 55,420 U.S. dollars) he earned from painting sales to support children living with disabilities to afford medical operations. He also teaches painting to people living with disabilities and assists them with selling their artwork to supplement their income.

"During my journey, I received a lot of love and help, which I would like to pass on," said Zuo, who is now working in a studio provided by the Rongjinyuan community of Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, for free.

Now the man still has difficulty holding his cup steadily and washing his hair by himself, apart from that he needs to concentrate when using chopsticks. But his surrealist oil paintings are very delicate. His most recent large-scale painting, "Asking the Sky," which took him two months to complete, depicts a space station and seven astronauts above the Earth, and contains his reflections on ancient Chinese philosophy with the details resembling a high-definition photograph.

To him, creating artwork is a way to extend one's life, because it can live forever.

"Life is like a painting," said Zuo, adding that whether it is beautiful or not depends largely on the details of the dark parts.

He hopes that in the future he could have a solo exhibition overseas like in the Louvre. "I want to exchange my ideas with people from around the world."

XinhuaKailun Sui

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