Yan is one of the first Chinese artists to have settled abroad and developed an international career after the opening-up and reform.
Based in France, the artist Yan Peiming has returned to China with a show about mortality, as Li Jing discovers.
'It was fortunate the Shanghai Art Academy rejected me," Yan Peiming recalls. "If they hadn't, my life would have been totally different."
The 64-year-old, having lived in Dijon, France, since the early 1980s, is one of the first Chinese artists after the opening-up and reform to have settled abroad and developed an international career.
In 2009, the Louvre staged a solo exhibition for him, which makes him the only other contemporary artist to have works shown at the museum besides Pablo Picasso.
Yan is exhibiting his latest works at the Beijing Center for the Arts, as part of this year's celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France.
The show includes a group of three huge black-and-white self-portraits, titled On My Knees, which depict Yan, half-naked on his knees, depressed, struggling and with a touch of sourness on his twisted faces.
"I have kind of mixed feelings about holding a show in my motherland," Yan says, lighting a cigar and slowly puffing on it. "These works are only for this show and I am only kneeling in China."