Dashan (aka Mark Henry Rowswell) has been called “the most famous foreigner in China,” where he has worked as a media personality and cultural ambassador for more than 25 years. Born and raised in Canada, Rowswell began studying Chinese in the mid-1980s. While in Beijing, he became interested in xiangsheng [she-ang shung], a revered form of traditional comedic dialogue, and was soon appearing on national television under the stage name Dashan.
Repeated television performances turned Dashan into a household name across China. His media career expanded from comedy to dramatic acting, to hosting cultural, diplomatic, educational and commercial programs and live 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” according to the People’s Daily newspaper. Dashan is the only non-Chinese performer to appear four times on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, China’s largest annual television extravaganza.
Dashan served as Canada’s Team Attaché during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and as Canada’s Commissioner General for Expo 2010 in Shanghai. In 2006 he was inducted into the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. In 2012 Dashan was named Goodwill Ambassador to China by Canada’s Prime Minister.
In recent years Dashan has returned to his comedic roots, combining traditional Chinese comedy with Western stand-up in a groundbreaking solo show, Dashan Live, in which he shares hilarious stories of his 30 years between east and west.