My brother-in-law Nima Dorje was born into the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of China. His father is a member of the extremely powerful Pabalankalilangjye family, hereditary rulers of Western Kham, the land whose political and cultural center is Chamdo. The family now is largely in exodus, in Dharamsala. I have not met that part
of the family.
Nima’s father joined the Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army in the 1950′s and as a result was rewarded with many long years in jail because of his heritage. Nima Dorje therefore grew up in jail.
The jail was in a remote village, and Nima’s father, a natural leader for all of his life, was a worker in this jail, following his imprisonment there for the crime of being born into the Tibetan gentry. Nima grew up doing farm work and listening to the stories of the intellectuals and once wealthy businessmen imprisoned for their non-proletarian backgrounds. He was mentally fed, from very early years, a diet of Taoist philosophy and Communist ideals. The Taoists were put in jail for thinking that they knew more than the average farmer. Nima took all of this in. He studied hard with the only teachers available during that time – the prisoners. There was no opportunity for Nima
to go to college. After middle school the available job was as prison warden.
In 1978 Nima took on the job of warden over his childhood friends and teachers.
This is the start of a story of an utterly remarkable man. The rest of the story is in the book, along withmuch commentary about his paintings, and some of the Tibetan philosophies implied in, or adding energy to those paintings.
It turned out to be through Nima, rather than through my husband, that I learned of the culture I had married into.