You might think that Mike Myers, Keanu Reeves or Pamela Anderson are the world’s best-known Canadians. But how many of you have heard of Mark Rowswell? Known in China as Dashan (‘Big mountain’), Rowswell is a household name to 1.3 billion people, which must put him close to the top of most global rankings.
He started studying Chinese when he was in Canada, at the University of Toronto. In 1988, he moved to Beijing to further his studies, and within three months, he was approached by CCTV to appear in a comedy sketch at the Spring Festival New Year Gala show. Overnight, ‘Dashan’ – the character he played in the sketch – became famous; Rowswell ended up adopting the character’s name as his stage name.
Apart from his breakthrough role at the CCTV New Year Gala, Dashan has become known for hosting language education TV programmes, teaching both Chinese and English. More recently he has starred in plays.
Any other talents?
Dashan speaks flawless Chinese and is the first Westerner to perform the art of xiangsheng – also known as ‘crosstalk,’ an ancient form of stand-up comedy in China that is known for its falling and rising tones and seemingly indecipherable script. At last year’s Beijing Olympics, Rowswell was also appointed as Team Attaché to the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Why is he in the news?
Dashan recently appeared on CCTV’s Spring Festival New Year Gala show – his first appearance in a decade. This year’s show tried to incorporate more foreign involvement. Apart from Dashan, the cast of Riverdance also performed.
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