Mark Rowswell (DaShan) 大山

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.


  • Breaking Barriers
    How was Dashan able to become accepted inside the Middle Kingdom?
  • Perceptions of “Dashan”& China’s Relationship with the Outside World
    What do differing perceptions of Dashan across the cultural divide tell us about China”s complex relationship with the outside world?
  • Television in China since the 1980s
    Fast Track from Ed Sullivan to YouTube – the evolution of mass media in China is a direct reflection of political, societal and cultural change in this period of rapid transformation
  • 150 Years of Chinese Comedy


  • Dashan has been inducted into the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour.
  • In 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper named “Dashan” Canada’s Goodwill Ambassador to China.
  • In 2009 Dashan received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Thompson Rivers University for “efforts to build global connections between cultures and economies”.
  • 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”
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Zhang LiJia 張麗佳

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Geoff Raby

China Expert, Former Australian Ambassador to China