Dashan: Is It Time to Stop Hating Him Already?

Expats can breathe a sigh of relief. The list of performers for tonight's CCTV Spring Festival Gala has been announced, and Dashan is not among them.

If you own a TV, like to watch Mandarin teaching shows and/or have spent any time at all in China, it is very unlikely that you've never come across the name Dashan (the name means “Big Mountain” in Chinese). The Canadian became an instant hit back in 1988 when he first showcased his Mandarin fluency during the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Since then, he's become such a sensation that most can't imagine him having a real name. (By the way, he does – it's Mark Roswell.)

Dashan is adored by the Chinese but hated by many Chinese-language learners. Let’s take a second to remind ourselves why:

  • Has spent 24 years in China
  • Has appeared four times on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala
  • The first foreigner to be formally accepted into the strict xiangsheng (cross-talk) hierarchy
  • A freelance host for many varied television programs and live events
  • Dramatic roles in television series
  • Commercial endorsements for various Chinese and international companies
  • Commissioner General for Canada at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo

If you’ve really never heard of him (or just wonder how all this started), click on the video below to watch his first-ever TV appearance.

Are we annoyed by his ingratiating "niceness" when he entertains the Chinese general public? Or is it just jealousy: that his Mandarin is so good he overshadows the rest of us? Or perhaps he represents a certain type of foreigner in China: the kind with an undying desire to be absorbed into Chinese culture, and then (almost too gleefully) finds himself in the public eye. The easy response to this stereotype is, “Oh gosh, one of those. What are they trying to prove?

Take a look at this recent post on social Q+A site Quora, where the Big Mountain Man himself tries to explain why he encounters such animosity from his fellow expats. Here's his summary:

Overuse: People are sick and tired of hearing the name “Dashan”
Resentment (Part A): Dashan's not the only Westerner who speaks Chinese fluently
Resentment (Part B): Being a foreign resident in China is not easy and Dashan gets all the breaks
Political/Cultural: People wish Dashan had more of an edge.
Stereotyping: The assumption that Dashan is a performing monkey

What do you think? Would you agree with his assessment?

How about we all take a deep breath, vent our final grievances, and bury the Dashan hatchet? It's about time we moved on anyway.

Photo: beckenham.id.au


The younger generation doesn't know much about him and besides he lives in Toronto so give the guy a break.

Jealousy. Most expats probably don't have good enough Chinese to appreciate his comic talent.

> he's become such a sensation that most can't imagine him having a real name. (By the way, he does – it's Mark Roswell

No it's not... 8|

look at your English mate! Chinese people have several years English in school and still can not speak properly. Even when they spend years as stduents abroad.
Unless the Foreigner is some Chinese language student, he never had any Chinese class before he comes to China. We start from zero!

Well, it is kind of silly to compare that Da Shan guy and Expats.
Real Expats are send by their company to work here 2-3 years and leave.
Dashan studied Chinese before he came to China, he studied fulltime in Canada and in China later on.

Expats can not and mostly do not want and do not need to learn Chinese. They have translators.

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