A naturally attacking player, despite her small size, she won 18 individual and team titles at either Olympic or world level during her illustrious career and was named Chinese Sports Personality of the Century in 1999.
She clinched Olympic gold in both singles and doubles at the Barcelona Games in 1992, and repeated the feat at the Atlanta Games four years later. She won the world singles title in 1991 and 1995, was world doubles champion with Qiao Hong in 1989 and 1995 and won both the world singles and doubles crowns for a third time in 1997.
Yaping first picked up a table tennis bat at the age of five and, after being coached by her father, she was beating the best players in China by the age of 13. "Even from an early age, I dreamed of being world champion," she said.
In 1989, she won the Asian Cup and the following year clinched three titles at the 11th Asian Games. Her breakthrough at the highest level came in 1991 when she captured the world singles title in Japan and that began her domination of the sport for the next seven years.
After her third singles and doubles world titles in 1997, although being still only 24, she felt she had achieved enough in the sport and she decided to retire from competition.
She enrolled at Qinghua University in Beijing and then took up a scholarship at the Centre for English Language at Nottingham University in England to complete a Masters degree.
She has been involved with the International Table Tennis Federation's programme for women's development and has worked as a member of several important International Olympic Committee commissions – Ethics, Sport and Environment and the Athletes Commission.
She has also been a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of China and member of the Chinese Olympic Committee. She was heavily involved in the promotion of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.