Qian Jinfan was born in Jiaxing, a city around 50 miles from Shanghai, in 1928. A Chinese calligrapher, literary theorist and art collector, he built a career as a mid-ranking civil servant in Foshan, in southern Guangdong province, and married aged 54. Four years ago, aged 80, he decided he wanted to be a woman.
This week Mr Qian spoke publicly for the first time about his decision, transforming himself into an unusual symbol of changing attitudes toward sex and sexuality in China.
"This is my real-self. I have covered myself up for the past 80-ish years," Mr Qian, who now prefers to be called Yi Ling, uses female lavatories and is reputedly China’s oldest openly transgender person, told Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis Daily.
"I hope to stand up against the prejudice people hold towards transsexuals. I want to eliminate it," he added.
Mr Qian told the newspaper he had felt female since he was a child. But his transformation from Jinfan to Yi Ling only began in December 2008 when he started taking hormones to enlarge his breasts and wearing women’s clothes.