When she was younger, English professor Yang Jia dreamed of being like characters in the books she read.
She imagined herself as the strong-willed and independent Jane Eyre, who struggles to be her own individual, or as the rich and beautiful Tonia Tumanova from the Russian novel How the Steel was Tempered.
Instead, Yang said, she ended up more like the blind characters in those same books - Jane Eyre's love Mr. Rochester, or Pavel Korchagin, the hero who fought against his disability to achieve success.
Yet the comparison with these characters is more than merely literary.
At 29, Yang was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which first blurred her vision and then led to her ultimate blindness.
"Going blind was the watershed of my life. My focus shifted from outrunning others before turning 29 to transcending my own limits after it."
And like those two strong-willed characters, Yang fought the odds to rise from her sudden blindness to became a well-respected social activist.
Yang, now 47, won admission to Zhengzhou University when she was 15. She was called a genius by her peers and topped her class every year in university.
After three years of teaching at her alma mater following graduation, Yang proceeded to her master's degree at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences.