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Jin Xing

Role Model for Millions

by Katherine Cummings
Article appeared in Polare magazine: April 2010 Last Update: October 2013 Last Reviewed: February 2014

Jin Xing

Jin Xing rose to the rank of Colonel in the P.L.A. and left China to study dance in the United States

Jin Xing is one of the most remarkable and admirable women living today. Born physically male in 1967 she showed an early love of dance and a determination to make it her life, going on a hunger strike at the age of nine in order to be allowed to attend dance school. After much conflict with her family she was allowed to join the People's Liberation Army Dance Company where she soon distinguished herself.

She suffered for her art in the army, often failing the rigorous martial exercises and being forced to write "confessions" of failure. She now says "I became a master of the art of writing the self-critique." After completing basic training her talent as a dancer soon came to official notice and at the age of seventeen Jin Xing won her first national dance award.

Showing a talent for her adopted profession, Jin Xing rose to the rank of colonel in the P.L.A. and left China to study dance in the United States, where she discovered a new love in modern dance.

She earned a standing ovation at her first major performance in New York. She studied in New York for four years, then moved to Europe and taught dance in Rome from 1991 to 1993.

She returned to China at the age of twenty-six and at last admitted to herself that she was transgendered, undergoing gender affirmation surgery in 1996. She may have been the first officially sanctioned male-to-female gender affirmation in China. Certainly she was one of the first. She suffered a paralysed leg following surgery but recovered and moved to Shanghai to train dance students. She married a German and at the age of thirty-three adopted her first son. She now lives in Shanghai with her husband and three adopted children.

Since 2000 she has owned her own modern dance company in Shanghai and she is outspoken in her views of the Chinese authorities.

In 2010 Jin Xing's dance company took part in the Adelaide Festival, performing "Shanghai Beauty, described as a "ground-breaking dance performance. The Australian Broadcasting Commission said that the ensemble she leads possesses "tightly fluid choreography that displays the hybrid possibilities of marrying cool western forms with elements of traditional Chinese elegance."

Jin Xing is recognised as the most significant choreographer in China and in 1996 set up the Beijing Modern Dance Ensemble and in 2006 organised the first independent dance festival in China, the Shanghai Dance Festival.

It is a further tribute to this amazing woman that she has been so open about her transgender status, creating a model for those about her and allowing her life and her work to be discussed calmly by interviewers and lovers of the dance, without avoiding any of the inevitable questions concerning her life journey.

China has now adopted a reformed policy towards transgender, allowing those approved for gender affirmation to have medical treatment and full revision of their documentation and gender status. According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern China approximately 1000 transgender surgeries had been performed up to 2006, with about 400,000 on the waiting list.

Jin Xing

From Jin Xing's website: External Link Jin Xing (directly translated: golden star) started her remarkable life journey 1967 in Shenyang in Liaoning province. She was born to parents from the country's Korean minority at a time when China was caught in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. At the age of nine, she managed to get herself enrolled in the famous military dance ensemble in Shenyang, whose teacher belonged to the top of classic ballet in China. Since then Jin Xing's history reads like row after row of superlatives.

At the age of seventeen she received the Best Dancer of China Award. With nineteen she became the first Chinese dancer to win a grant in New York from the Asian Cultural Council of America and the American Dance Festival. Amongst others she studied with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Jose Limon. In 1991 she won the "Best Choreographer Award" of the American Dance Festival for her creation Half Dream. Jin Xing then decided to move to Europe. There followed educational visits and appearances with various ensembles in Rome and Brussels. In 1993 after a total of six years in the western world Jin Xing returned to China where she became teacher for the National Choreography and Modern Dance Training workshops commissioned by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. In 1994 she resigned as Colonel from the Chinese military dance company.

Read more about Jin Xing at her websiteExternal Link

This video is courtesy H.D. Net World Report and You Tube

Shanghai Tango: A Memoir
Author: Jin Xing
Publisher: Atlantic Books (2007)
I.S.B.N.-13 978 1843546329

From Amazon Books External Link This unusual memoir describes how China's foremost male ballet dancer (and colonel in the People's Army) underwent China's first sex-change operation and became the Shanghai Ballet's prima ballerina. This book is suitable for fans of ballet and modern dance, anyone interested in gender issues, and in Chinese culture and customs. Jin Xing is a former prima ballerina, one of the brightest stars of the Shanghai Ballet. But her journey to international fame has been fraught with difficulty because Jin Xing was in fact born a man. From an early age she was intensely uncomfortable with her gender. Unable to understand or put words to her feelings, she immersed herself in ballet dancing, her first love. Aged nine, she joined the People's Liberation Army, where she received both dance and military training and attained the rank of colonel. The curtains opened on a new act in her life when, at the age of nineteen, she received a scholarship to study dance in New York. It was there that she discovered for the first time that it was possible to change sex. In an instant, what had been the province of dreams became a real opportunity. She took the courageous decision to return to China to face the authorities, quit the army, and confront the world with her decision to become a woman. As dramatic, graceful and deeply felt as a pas de deux, Shanghai Tango is a deeply personal and inspiring account of growing up in a body that feels alien and of braving pioneering surgery in communist China.

Polare Magazine is published quarterly in Australia by The Gender Centre Inc. which is funded by the Department of Family & Community Services under the S.A.A.P. program and supported by the N.S.W. Health Department through the AIDS and Infectious Diseases Branch. Polare provides a forum for discussion and debate on gender issues. Unsolicited contributions are welcome, the editor reserves the right to edit such contributions without notification. Any submission which appears in Polare may be published on our internet site. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor, The Gender Centre Inc., the Department of Family & Community Services or the N.S.W. Department of Health.

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