I wasn’t sure how well my standup routine would work in a formal diplomatic setting, but decided to give it a try when I was invited to this reception at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, January 2015. Ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques gives the introduction.
Dashan 大山, AKA Mark Rowswell, has been called “the most famous foreigner in China”, where he has worked as media personality and cultural ambassador for over 25 years. It’s hard to find anyone in China who does not know of Dashan.
While 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.
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.