Great wall conversion

Updated: 2012-12-02 11:33

By Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)

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Great wall conversion

American James Spear believes it was his destiny to settle in China. Provided to China Daily

American James Spear had a dream of settling down by Beijing's Great Wall, says Wang Xiaodong. Today, he also runs several businesses in the area too.

Most people visit the Great Wall to admire it, but one American has gone a step further by settling down nearby and setting up a business.

"My dream was to have a house at the Great Wall," says 57-year-old James Spear, who lives in Mutianyu village, a northern suburb of Beijing.

Here and in two nearby villages he owns several hotels and restaurants.

"I feel very fortunate to be tolerated and welcome by villagers in such insular places."

Related: Shanxi drawing up Great Wall protection plan

For Spear, settling in China was his destiny. As a University of California, Berkeley student he was sent on a summer program to Peking University in 1981.

After he returned to the US he met a Chinese student from Beijing also studying at Berkeley, who later became his wife.

"She was my Chinese tutor at Berkeley and I wanted to ask her to go out with me on a date," Spear says. "I kept on asking her but she said, 'Let's just keep it a teacher and student relationship'," Spear says in fluent Chinese.

Eventually Tang Liang relented and they have now been together for 30 years.

After finishing his master's degree, Spear and his wife joined a consultancy company, which sent them to its Beijing branch office in 1986.

Spear often visited the Great Wall, as its magnificence fascinated him.

"Beijing is a very big, crowded city. At that time our children were still little so we were looking for a place in the countryside where they could enjoy fresh air, blue sky and mountains, and especially, the Great Wall," Spear recalls.

But it was not an easy move to make.

Related: Beijing City Guide

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