The Under-200-Word Version
Mark Rowswell AKA Dashan has been called “the most famous foreigner in China”, where he has worked as media personality and cultural ambassador for over 25 years.
Born and raised in Canada, Rowswell began studying Chinese in the mid 1980s, first at the University of Toronto and later at Beijing University. While in Beijing, he became interested in xiangsheng 相声, a traditional form of comedic dialogue, and was soon appearing on national television under the stage name “Dashan”.
Repeated performances on television programs with audiences in the hundreds of millions gradually turned “Dashan” into a household name across China, and his media career expanded from comedy to dramatic acting to hosting cultural, diplomatic, educational and commercial programs & events. Over time, Dashan came to be seen as a cultural ambassador between China and the West and as a symbol of finding common ground between cultures, “a foreigner but not an outsider”.
In recent years Dashan has returned to his comedic roots, combining traditional Chinese comedy with modern stand-up in a ground-breaking solo show “Dashan Live”.
The Wikipedia version is not bad either and has a bit more detail, although every once in a while somebody tacks on something strange. Just because it’s been published somewhere doesn’t mean it’s entirely accurate. You’d think we’d know that by now.
My Story in Three Acts
If you have 29 minutes to spare, here’s how I told my story recently to an audience of fellow alumni at the University of Toronto.