Dashan, AKA Mark Rowswell, has been called “the most famous foreigner in China”, where he has worked as performer, television host and cultural ambassador for over 20 years. Although relatively unknown in the West, it’s hard to find anyone in China who does not know of Dashan.
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, Rowswell became interested in Chinese performing arts, particularly xiangsheng 相声, a popular form of comic dialogue. A chance opportunity to appear on television suddenly gave Rowswell national exposure under the stage name “Dashan”. Repeated appearances on programs with audiences in the hundreds of millions gradually turned “Dashan” into a household name across China.
Well over 20 years later, Dashan is still going strong. Although Dashan got his start performing comedy, today he is seen more as a cultural ambassador between China and the West. To many people Dashan is a prominent symbol of “East-meets-West”, of finding a common ground between the two cultures.
What Does He Do?
Dashan is one of the leading freelance emcees in China, both for television and live events, especially for programs and events with an international theme. Dashan also works as a freelance performer in drama and comedy and has produced and hosted numerous educational programs, both to teach English and Chinese. In addition, Dashan does promotional work for both commercial clients and charitable causes.
Dashan is also active in public speaking, sharing his experiences in learning Chinese, on cross-cultural issues and on his personal experience as a media figure in China. Dashan also maintains two popular micro-blogs in China that explore cross-cultural topics and are followed daily by over 4 million subscribers. Follow these at Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, or simply on the “Kan Dashan” blog on this site.
Dashan was Team Attaché for the Canadian Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. During Expo 2010 in Shanghai, Dashan served as Commissioner General for Canada. In 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Dashan as Canada’s Goodwill Ambassador to China.
- Dashan has been inducted into the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour.
- In 2008, Dashan was awarded the White Magnolia Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Dinner Game, marking the first time a foreign national has received one of China’s top three dramatic arts awards.
- Dashan was selected to be an official torch bearer for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing
- In 2006 , Dashan received the Key to the City of Ottawa for his contributions in building bridges between Canada and China
- In 2005, Dashan became the first foreigner selected as one of ten “Outstanding Youth of Beijing”, one of the highest honours granted by the Beijing authorities.
- In 2004, Dashan was awarded a Special Recognition Award from the Canadian Cancer Society for serving as the society’s Goodwill Ambassador in China.
- In 1999, University of Toronto selected Dashan as one of “100 Alumni Who Shaped the Century”. That same year, TIME Magazine selected Dashan as one of the “Leaders for the 21st Century”
- In 1998, the 20th anniversary of China’s reform and opening, New Weekly Magazine chose Dashan as one of the “Outstanding People of the Past 20 Years”