A Chinese man has dressed as a woman for 20 years to help his mentally ill mother cope with the death of his sister.

The unnamed man, from Guilin in the Guangxi region, is seen wearing a traditional cheongsam dress while looking after his elderly mother in a video about his story.

He said he started dressing as a woman after his mother began showing signs of mental illness following the death of her daughter.

"The first time I dressed as a woman she was so happy, so I kept doing it," he told Pear Video, whose film has been watched more than 4.2 million times and been shared widely in China.

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"I've basically been living as a woman ever since. I don't own any men's clothing."

The man, who is not married, said he was not worried by what people thought of his cross-dressing.

"This is my family's business, if you don't like the way it looks then don't look," he said.

"I'm doing this for my mother. Why would I be afraid of people laughing at me?" he added.

In the video, his mother says: "She is my daughter," referring to her son. "When my other daughter died she became my daughter," she said.

His story spread across China's social network, Sina Weibo, with many users praising his behaviour as "truly filial".

"To make his mother happy, he dressed as a woman for 20 years. It doesn't matter how you view this, you have to praise this man for his filial piety!" one user commented, according to the BBC.

"This is a real man" another user wrote.

Others were more sceptical.

One user said the "mother has been successful in controlling her son" and another asked "is this filial piety or is he looking for an excuse to be a transvestite?".