A 62-year-old American man passionate about China has been making headlines for his act of volunteerism and unquestionable affinity to local culture.
Terry Crossman, who goes by his Chinese alias Gao Tianrui, has become an instant celebrity in the country after applying to be a “Xicheng Dama.”
According to the Global Times
, “Xicheng Dama”
refers to a group of volunteers, usually women between the ages of 58 and 65, who roam around central Beijing’s Xicheng District as public security aides.
Crossman, who calls himself “a real Beijing gentleman” has been living in the Chinese capital with his family since 1997.
He has continuously worked in the city, eating traditional food and chatting with locals, mostly taxi drivers, in his free time. He also learned to prepare traditional Beijing bean-paste noodles.
Beijing felt like home, and that’s precisely the reason why he never wants to leave.
“I had no hometown in the United States. Your home is where your things are. In this sense, Beijing is my home,” he said.
Crossman’s parents separated while he was young. As a family, they moved to different places in the United States, and this did not make him feel at home anywhere.
He found his interest in Chinese culture as a teenager when he read Laozi’s “Tao De Ching” and studied the “I Ching”, an ancient divination text also known as the “Book of Changes”, by himself.
At 18, he arrived in Taiwan through a cargo ship to learn the Chinese language. It was the ship’s captain who gave him the moniker Gao Tianrui, which happened to be based on the pronunciation of his English name.
He first came to the mainland in 1981, going to Shanghai and Suzhou in Jingsu Province. He first arrived in Beijing in 1987 for business.
Crossman currently has no job after his company closed its Beijing office. His visa expired too, but he managed to solve the problem by applying for a student visa and enrolling in a Chinese language course.
His student visa, however, expires on September 8. Nevertheless, he appears to have options to continue living in his “home”:
“I’ve received offers from companies, but I haven’t signed a contract yet. It’s too bad there isn’t a special visa for retirees. We’ll see if I can stay in Beijing.”