Dashan

dashan

Ray posted a nice long comment to my last entry. Unfortunately, Haloscan seems to have lost it. [Update: the "lost" comments are back.] One thing he touched on, though, was “that big dork Dashan.” Dashan is pretty much completely unknown outside of China, but almost universally known within China. This man has become a real nuisance to students of Chinese everywhere.

Dashan is a big white Canadian. The thing is, he speaks Mandarin Chinese perfectly. I mean really, really well. He basically decided, “yeah, I’ll take on Chinese,” and then just competely kicked Chinese’s ass. He has done xiangsheng for years, a kind of two-person traditional Chinese standup comedy. “Dashan” means “big mountain,” which I always thought was an incredibly stupid Chinese name, but then a Chinese friend explained to me that it’s sort of a joke, and that Chinese people like the name. Ah, Dashan… you win again, with your superior understanding of Chinese “humor” (which really is unfathomable)!

According to the chronology on Dashan’s site, he majored in Chinese studies, graduated in 1988, and has been in China ever since. He was in an independent studies program at Beijing University, and he also served as a public relations advisor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. The hilarious conclusion to the chronology: 1995 – Founded Dashan Incorporated and began full-time career as Dashan. OK, I don’t know whether it’s just me, or it’s a foreigner-in-china thing, but I find that very funny.

OK, so you’re probably wondering what the deal with Dashan is. Why am I bringing him up? Well, there are several reasons. First, he is the bane of caucasian students of Chinese everywhere. About 60% (yes, that’s a hard statistic!) of Chinese people you know here will ask you if you know who Dashan is, as if revealing his mere existence to us might show us the path to enlightenment. On the contrary, it’s just annoying. Yeah, so another whitey could do it — it’s still annoying!

Second, I get told I look like Dashan all the time. I do not want to look like Dashan! When I deny it, they insist, asserting that I’m handsome like he is. Okayyy…

Third, his mere existence is an enigma. What can this man really do? Speak Chinese. Yes, but what can he really do?? Speak Chinese. Really well. In the USA, immigrants get no credit for speaking perfect English, unless maybe they did it in less than 48 hours solely by watching MTV. Meanwhile, Dashan is a national celebrity. Furthermore, he’s not the only foreigner to speak perfect Chinese, but he seems to be the only one recognized. He has the monopoly on Chinese skills. I think the Chinese find it amusing and touching that a foreigner can speak such perfect Chinese, but then simultaneously find his singularity somehow comforting. It goes without saying that the hard work and bitter struggle of any Asian that becomes fluent in Chinese is hardly acknowledged.

A while back a producer of a CCTV show was trying to talk me into being on their show. It’s a sort of showcase/gameshow of foreigners that can speak good Chinese. When I mentioned Dashan, she rolled her eyes. She said Dashan is old news, too perfect, no longer interesting. That’s all well and good, but the grinning spirit of Dashan is alive and well in Chinese society.

Obviously I envy this guy. He speaks amazing Chinese. He must be very disciplined and hard-working. I have yet to really “master” any foreign language, though I’m well along the way in a few. But images and accolades of this dorky guy forced down my throat do not foster affection.

But this is China. Home of Dashan. He was here first, anyway.

Related: Sinosplice’s Derisive Dashan.

49 Comments to “Dashan

  1. dodo says:

    i wouldn’t know him if he didn’t get on national TV like the spring festival CCTV show. and being the student of Jiang Kun and having show with him. to be a celebrity, all you need is opportunity. i agree that more and more foreigners can speak perfect chinese now. but he was one of earliest ones.

  2. JP Heldt says:

    Dashan speaks well Chinese! That’s a fact. And he capitalizes well on this asset. But did you know that Dashan was raised in China by his parents working in China when he was a child?

    If this is true and confirmed (as some of my friends claim), then Dashan is a “fraud” for not aknowledging the real source of his perfect mastery of the Chinese language. Please respond. thanks JP

    • Mark says:

      Here is something interesting to note: Dashan claims that he learned Mandarin Chinese at the University of Toronto and graduated in 1988. Well, I’m from Toronto and can tell you that the Mandarin speaking population of Toronto in the late 1980′s was over dominated by Cantonese speakers. It was virtually non-existent to hear Mandarin Chinese on the radio, t.v, and the streets. If Dashan really learned at U of T and then went to China to further his education, he must of had lots of “practice” with locals before going to T.O. Secondly, I speak very good Cantonese and have also studied Mandarin. Generally speaking now the demographics in the Toronto Chinese community has shifted to more Mandarin speaking people. This trend started to occur in the late 1990s well after Dashan was living in China. I’ve heard Dashan’s first t.v. interview and he spoke Chinese like he was living there a long time. I think that people are not jealous of him but just feel he is a jerk because he likes the attention it gives him. When I was in China last year so many people were idolizing me for my ability to speak Chinese. To tell the truth, it got very annoying after a while. I don’t understand why Dashan has to act like a pompous person because all he can do is speak Chinese. Lastly, I know a reporter who interviewed Dashan in person and had similar viewpoints of the man. Dashan stated that he likes the money he is getting. I wish that Dashan would just be honest with the Chinese people that he lived in China and spoke Mandarin before his studies at U of T. If not, my point about him not having the environment to practice in during the late 1980s would show that his level would be minimal. How much Chinese can you learn at the University? Not to Dashan’s level.

  3. owen says:

    I realize this is a blog and all but really your opinion of the guy is baseless. I am a student and chinese and da shan is much more helpful than the ‘bane of my existence’. I get annoyed at people asking me about him but that is more about their own tiny mindedness and not his vanity. Anyways i just always hear people such as yourself panning him and its just tiresome and predictable. I agree that his fame may be a little uncalled for however.

  4. Laowai says:

    He was selected by the Propaganda Department because they wanted an English-speaking, blue-eyes, blond-hair westerner who would legitimized the Communist Party and its media to the average Chinese peasant who has no chance of going abroad or even meeting a foreigner. British were out because of Opium Wars and democracy in HK, Americans were out because of their staunch support for human rights, but Canadians with their liberal immigration policies and closing eyes for human rights violations in other countries were deemed to be OK. There was once a front-page article about him in WSJ that he actually makes peanuts for all this hype. Jiang Kun complained in one of the online publications that the guy was hit on of ChangAn Avenue in the very center of Beijing by some younger-generation Chinese racists who did not recognized the early 1990s celebrity. His crime was holding hands with his Chinese girlfriend. Personally, I don’t have anything against him although an average westerner is much more fun than him and singing a song “I am a Big Nose Foreigner” with a cowboy hat on his head on the PLA concerts is at least not very sensitive. Educated Chinese realize that too.

  5. Tom says:

    I dunno – Dashan is just one of those weird things that happen to foreigners in China when they miraculously find their niche. I understand some of the feelings people have when Chinese praise his command of the language – it’s off-putting at first.

    But, you know, there are a million-and-one non-entities who make it big on the small screen in the US, Britain, and Canada. In the UK we have our very own Jade Goody, who made it because she is phenomenally stupid and so quite funny. I think Paris Hilton is remarkably talentless too.

    Shit tends to float to the top in any society.

    Foreigners in China should stop playing to the myth that all foreigners in China are talentless, or just lucky. They are simply doing what all people all over the world are doing – looking for their niche. Some are talented and fail; some are talentless and suceed. That’s the way it is. Dashan can at least do one thing quite well.

    Dashan’s okay.

  6. Tom says:

    I must add, too, that having worked for CCTV I can certainly believe that he earns peanuts.

  7. blake says:

    ‘pretty much completely unknown outside of China, but almost universally known within China’

    hmmm I wonder if there’s anything else that could be described this way? Future Cola? Magnum Bars? hmmm. maybe something that’s more televised, in which case it is way under my radar.

  8. Kevin says:

    I just envy him. In fact, I find that I pretty much envy every foreigner whose Chinese is better than mine, including John Pasden. It’s a really awful disease, this great-Chinese-speaking-laowai envy thing, but it does help motivate me to study harder.

  9. Laska says:

    Dashan is rad. You know why? Because he’s beat the system. That’s what it comes down to. People who beat the system are rad.

    People can call him a sell out, or a dork, or whatever. But he doesn’t care, because he’s got it beat.

    Remember: the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.

  10. Da Xiangchang says:

    Laska,

    I’m a little confused: what system did Dashan beat?

  11. Laska says:

    The one George Carlin was referring to when he said this: “Human beings are kind of interesting from birth until the age of a year and half. Then they are boring until they reach the age of fifty. By that time they are either entirely defeated and fucked up, which makes them interesting again, or they have learned how to beat the game, and that makes them interesting too.”

  12. G says:

    “I must add, too, that having worked for CCTV I can certainly believe that he earns peanuts.”–Tom

    He may be making peanuts from CCTV, but his celebrity has him raking it in, according to The People’s Daily Online.

    “The Dashan character provides Rowswell with more than just a $500,000 annual income…” http://english.people.com.cn/200406/23/eng20040623_147314.html

    Yes, that’s right, Dashan makes half a MILLION freakin’ dollars a year. I say good for him. Whether or not he was exposed to China at a young age, one day he discovered his appetite for asian women, (what motivates the overwhelming majority of expats in Asia) and went over there and kicked butt. And brought back that wife.

    Why do people hate him so much? Hessler touches on it in his “River Town” book. Every white guy who gets the asian expat bug wants to live out this fantasy of being the first and only white guy over there. Hessler writes about the rare occasions when he ran into another laowai in “his” town. He would think, “Get out of here. This is MY China.” For guys like this, the idea of some other white boy hiking your mountain paths and pissing on your trail is sickening. It’s territorialism. Like a dog sniffing a female’s butt to see who had her the day before.

    Part of the reason people settle abroad is the adventure and learning a new culture. I have mucho respect for that. But the other half of the coin is that they like being popular and “different” for once in their life. If they were back home, they would be largely ignored.

    When I mention the desire to go over there and get an asian wife, i.e. “conquer” asian women, I think this is THE major reason most white males want to settle abroad, especially in asia. If “learning the culture” or “adventure in a remote part of the world” were the ONLY reasons white expats settled in a asia, then why don’t they become expats in a REALLY exotic location like the Islamic middle east or Africa? Because most asian women in asia are easier for a white American to catch than a cold, that’s why.

    Some will admit it. Others get insulted when it’s mentioned. Relax. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    Males have a natural desire to spread their seed. During the Exodous, the Jews were f*ing the Moabites left and right, even though their god forbade it. What did explorers or armies do when they landed in a new country? They set about screwing all the foreign women. That’s why we hear people saying, “She’s ‘exotic’.” It really just means “She’s of different blood. I want to conquer her.”

    And this is why expats hate Dashan. It’s not because he speaks perfect Chinese. It’s because expats have a little Conquistador blood in them and Dashan is the ULTIMATE modern day Conquistador. He came to China and conquered it when it was “romantic”, i.e. no other ugly laowai faces to be seen, and he got his woman and makes half a million dollars speaking chinese and being white.

    G

  13. Bart says:

    The part referencing Peter Hessler’s book in G’s post is accurate. Some of the other stuff may be true of SOME foreigners but there’s also some of us who came here because we realized that China would be an economic & political force in the future and we wanted to be part of it. Getting Chinese girls was not the motivation. The ugly laowai part makes me think that G may be a disgruntled ABC.

  14. Paul says:

    Hi,

    I recently had reason to communicate with Dashan about his participation in the , ‘Communicate in Chinese’ books and vcd/dvd. The reason for this was that I am a British guy living and working in China and I am desperate to find some good material to help me learn Mandarin Chinese. Whilst in Beijing I bought books 1 and 2 plus vcd/dvd’s of this publication, thinking to myself, ‘well Dashan is a Mandarin expert, it must be good’, what a mistake. After only a few days I was totally disappointed with the material for many reason so I decided to write to the big man himself, not at the published address on the books(because they never repond) but at his own Email address.

    This was his reasponse:

    To be completely honest, the goal of any television program is primarily to entertain.So, producers of these types of programs try to play to as broad an audience as possible. Nobody wants to teach to absolute beginners, as that makes the program far too boring to watch. On the other hand, if you make the lessons too difficult, you also limit the program’s mass appeal. Whether or not “Communicate in Chinese” was successful in this or not is debatable. My own feeling is that most of your criticism is justified. I don’t think it was a very good program, but it served its purpose.That being said, I accepted as fact some years ago that this program was a bit of a dud, and not my best work by a long shot. Thankfully, not many people pay any attention to this program anymore.

    I responded to his mail and told him what I thought, that being what it was his involvement in the program was considered an endorsement by many people , and for this reason I considered him a bit of a fraud! He then replied as follows:

    I must say that the only reason I responded to your earlier email was that I was truly touched by its innocence. From your initial cry for help it seemed as if you truly believed that somehow, someone somewhere in cyberspace actually cared about what you had to say, that perhaps someone actually valued your “expertise” and opinion. Perhaps it is simply a profound sense of disorientation, a man-child of your considerable experience and skill being stuck in the middle of nowhere with far too much idle time for his own good. But now your childish rant has adopted a rather petty and nasty tone. I had assumed you were British, yet the “ugly American” seems to be rearing his head here. It’s time to bring this correspondence to a close.

    Mark Rowswell “Dashan”

    Dashan Incorporated

    website: http://www.dashan.com

    email: 9127@dashan.com

    Not such a nice reply, accusing me of being an idle lout with little or nothing to do all day. The truth of the matter is that I came to China in 2003 as a semi-retired teacher, after working in Industry and teaching my entire life.Since 2003 I have worked continually in middle school education, where I have helped many young people to improve their standard of English. I made the decision after marrying my Chinese fiancee that I would live in China for the remainder of my life, and for this reason I have always worked hard to learn Mandarin Chinese. I foolishly thought that the Great Dashan could maybe help, but in the end he turned out to be a nasty school boy, only interested in his own deification!

    And, could it be that our Mark Roswell is anti-American, tut-tut!

    Paul

  15. Da Xiangchang says:

    G,

    “It’s because expats have a little Conquistador blood in them and Dashan is the ULTIMATE modern day Conquistador.” Oh, give me a ^#&@ break! Talk about self-aggrandizement! Haha. Teaching Chinese kids English–or even speaking Chinese well–ain’t exactly overthrowing the Incas, dude. I’d say the modern-day conquistadors are those private mercenaries who get hired for big bucks in Iraq or something.

  16. Sid says:

    That reminded me when I was teaching English in China. When I was talking to this one woman who owns a private English “school”, I was talking to her in Chinese. She then said, “Oh my! You’re just like Da Shan! It’s so nice that there are people like Da Shan who can do the same things as the Chinese.”

    And I was like, “What can Chinese do that Da Shan has mastered so well? Use chopsticks? Easy! Speak Chinese? Not hard at all! But how good is his kung fu? Not as good as mine!”

  17. DJW says:

    Is it a “fact” what the second poster said about Dashan, that he was actually raised in China? I think I should assume that it is not true unless proved otherwise.

    I want to raise the question of how many Da Shans are there out there. A Chinese “friend” once told me that, although my Chinese is quite good, and he can understand all I say, as soon as I open my mouth, it is clear that I am a foreigner, and nothing at all like Da Shan. Gee, thanks! Like to kick me in the balls any more? Just go ahead!

    I insisted that Da Shan was the exception and that people like him were thin on the ground. But apparently there are other Westerners fully fluent in Chinese. And yet all the foreign students I see in Kunming are at the Elementary or Intermediate stage, and then they go home. Relatively few people studying Chinese in China actually make it through to Advanced Chinese – let alone full fluency, however that may be defined. My Chinese friends have confirmed that John Pasden’s Chinese blog is written in really good Chinese, so there are others out there who have mastered the lingo, but my feeling is that there may be a four-figure number of Westerners fluent in Chinese, say 1000 or 2000, at max, but there definitely aren’t, say, 10,000. I’m not even sure that “fully fluent” Westerners number as much as 1000. It’s that rare. Am I right?

  18. Christopher Coulouris says:

    Da Shan speaks perfect Chinese and he has created a lucrative career. Who can really begrudge him for this? However, he cannot read and write Chinese fluently or perfectly. 400 years or so ago the Jesuits entered China and their accomplishments will never be repeated. Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall, Ferdinand Verbiest, Guilio Aleni and Joseph De Premare to name a few came to China mastered and Chinese in all its forms. To learn about these remarkable men I recommend The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan Spence and Generation of Giants (I can’t recall the author’s name). Which other group of Westerners or individuals for that matter has written in Chinese works on mathematics, hydraulics, astronomy, music, history, theology, and cartography? Possibly others have but not as prolificly or expertly as the Jesuits. Da Shan maybe the most famous Westerner in China but he surely isn’t the first or the greatest.

  19. DJW says:

    Er… Chrisopher Colouris, how do you know Da Shan cannot read and write fluently? Where is this information coming from? I too believe that it is possible for a foreigner with good tones to get good speaking and listening skills and thus appear to have fully mastered the language, whereas reading with all the chengyu and classical allusions, could be a different kettle of fish. But are you sure Da Shan is in this category?

  20. Christopher Coulouris says:

    I wrote that Da Shan cannot read and write Chinese fluently because I have a friend who is a professor of Chinese in China and she told me that it is known that while at Bei Da Da Shan was unable to even read a copy of the Renmin Ribao. Of course in the subsequent years he may have learned to read and write Chinese but I bet if you gave him a random modern Chinese text he would not be able to read it fluently . Also, I have never seen or heard of Da Shan having published original works in Chinese. Remember the gap between written and spoken Chinese is the greatest of any language in the world. Finally, I don’t think it matters much he is an entertainer not a scholar

  21. Christopher Coulouris says:

    The reason I wrote that Da Shan cannot read and write Chinese is because I have a professor friend in China and she told me that it is known that while a Bei Da Da Shan could not read the Renmin Ribao. Of course she may be wrong or in the subsequent years Da Shan has learned to read and write Chinese. My guess it that if you gave him any random modern Chinese text to read he would not be able to do it. Also, I have never heard of or seen any original works written by Da Shan in Chinese. Remember too that the difference between spoken and written Chinese is the greatest of any language in world. Lastly, Da Shan is an entertainer not a scholar so for his purposes reading and writing are not of utmost importance. I may be making too many assumptions but I believe I am correct.

  22. John says:

    As for foreigners fluent in Chinese, I’d also say it’s very few who are very fluent, although I must say there are two white professors at my University in the USA who so perfectly, particularly one who speaks 4 or 5 dialects fluently as well. Much better than Dashan, although they are by no means famous at all. Furthermore most foreigners I encounter in China can’t speak a word of Chinese. Not even that many care about this as they are here for business. But as you say, what makes him special? He can speak Chinese. That’s it. If he can do it, anyone else can too, even if you have to study a few years, and spend a few years in China to immerse yourself more.

    BTW If that is true about his reply to the email, that sucks, and he is a nasty fraud.

  23. James says:

    I must also add as for pronunciation, a standard Beijing dialect is not necessary, as if you go anywhere outside beijing they cannot speak standard mandarin, and often times are quite atrocious, albeit they are native chinese speakers. For example “ni de laosi si sei” rather than “ni de laoshi shi shei”. etc. Also, french, german, and russian can never master a chinese accent as their own accents are far too heavy. when a russian speaks chinese it sounds like they are speaking russian. when a french speaks, it sounds like french. when a german speaks, it sounds like german. by far, americans have the best accents because they are rather neutral and not at all strong, so they can adapt more to immitating foreign accents. In my opinion and experience here in China, as long as you can decently pronounce the sounds of words, and even somewhat decently tones, people will understand you. unless they are really uneducated and can’t even understand a perfect “chao fan” when you order…this comes from waiters who have atrocious chinese themselves, and thus cannot understand a standard beijing accent.

  24. Mark says:

    Obviously, the Chinese skills are key, but I think his physical appearance had a huge part in his success. He’s well over six feet tall, he’s thin, he has a strong facial profile, and he still has a full head of hair at 40. How many guys meet that list of requirements? One out fifty?

  25. Linda says:

    Hi – I too think Da Shan is a big dork especially with his pink lipstick. However, what really concerns me are the unnecessary spaces after punctuation marks in your blog’s sections, for example an unnecessary space between an apostrophe and an “s.” Is this some fault of the software or do you not know this rule?

  26. Micah says:

    Linda: View > Encoding > Unicode (UTF-8) ?

    It could be that the browser you’re using is interpreting the pages as Chinese encoding GB-2312 and using double-spaced apostrophers which leave a space after the apostrophe, hence the effect you’re seeing.

  27. John says:

    Micah,

    It might have something to do with the browser she’s using. I’ve noticed this problem with IE 6. I’m not really going to worry about it…

  28. canrun says:

    So, what is it? $500,000 a year or 50? What a difference a few years makes! Must be my wife’s buying that damn Da Shan translator!

    http://members.aol.com/lumabner/china/Dashan.htm

  29. croozn says:

    Dashan speaks better Chinese than any other foreigner I have so far heard, except perhaps for a Canadian woman I was heard act as a translator for a senior PRC official at a dinner event. I forgot her name, but she was outstanding.

    I personally get a kick out of laowai who claim fluency in this language. Dashan is one of the very few who could make this claim, and growing up in China is the main reason it was possible for him. You absolutely cannot achieve “fluency” in this language from college study, though you can certainly reach the level of “pretty good”. I am better than “pretty good” but nowhere near fluent, nor will I ever be, and I have been at it for a long time.

    Someone wrote that Dashan just “decided” to master Chinese while in college – and this is total nonsense. I heard he came here when he was 10 or 12 years old and has been totally immersed in the language since then. If you can go back in time and do that, then you can do the same thing.

    There is nothing more grating to my ears than monotonal laowai with good vocabularies making a mess of this language. I don’t have an opinion on Dashan’s politics – or professed lack thereof (which seems ridiculous) – but give the guy credit, even if he did grow up here, because his Chinese (spoken, at least) is damn near perfect; better, even, than a lot of native speakers.

  30. gene says:

    I was in China last summer in Hangzhou. I lived at Zhe Da Lao Jia Chi campus and taught English in Xiang Shan and Longyou. As a handsome black dude with much cherokee blood, I got along famously with the locals. My Chinese is really basic. I can take cabs, order food and get around a town with the basic …where is? how can I? ….I am now taking basic pronunciation exercise classes here in Santa Cruz Ca and I give Da Shan a lot of creidit just for doing what he does. I learned a lot from watching his TV shows while I was there. See you next summer in Hangzhou and Shanghai, my favorite cities.

  31. Nedzer says:

    There has been some really strong claims here. Claims that Dashan is a fraud by growing up in China (and justly so). I’ve studied Chinese in University here and it is sooooooooo boring and taught in such an outdated way, yet I always believed I would someday make it to fluent because I had Dashan in the back of my mind and him as my goal. If he did live here as a child it is a fraud of the highest order! So can anyone offer cold facts?

  32. DaShan says:

    Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

  33. Marion Brown says:

    Hey you guys, most of you sound like sour grapes! My son has lived in Taiwan over 20 years and speaks fairly fluent Mandarin and Taiwanese but he doesn’t even come near DaShan’s ability (plus he has a Chinese wife and son). I (in my old age) am struggling to learn sufficient Chinese to get along but find the Hanzi really kick-ass. Be proud in your own accomplishments and forget about panning Da Shan.

  34. Mark says:

    G said – “why don’t they become expats in a REALLY exotic location like the Islamic middle east or Africa?”

    errr… there’s plenty of British ex-pats in the Middle East and Africa. Saudi Arabia is very popular.

  35. Lu says:

    James said: “by far, americans have the best accents because they are rather neutral and not at all strong, so they can adapt more to immitating foreign accents.” I’m assuming that you are American yourself, and as such used to the American way of speaking. I can assure you that Americans, just like people from other countries, more often than not have a distinct American accent to their Chinese, and it’s usually very ugly to hear. (But that last bit is of course just my personal opinion. I prefer Chinese with a French accent.)

  36. Caspian says:

    I’m British, ans believe me, the American accent is incredibly strong, and disliked by many English people – I would go as far to say it is much stronger than a German accent.

  37. XiaoShan says:

    Americans should learn Taiwanese… a lot of nasal tones, they’d have a head start there…

  38. Conspiracy Theory says:

    Paul: why didn’t you post your emails up with the ones DaShan supposedly wrote?

    Huh?

    Huh?

  39. Chinglish Aussie says:

    My family went to Beijing for the first time in Feb. this year. My youngest child was award an exchange scholarship to Peking University. (In Dashan’s footsteps?) Dashan could not be missed if you surfed the TV channels in your hotel room. Did Dashan plan his career that way to be a professional laowai? I think not. The pieces just fall together, no amount of spin, advertisement, connection, can replicate such a phenomenon. Do I want my child to be another Dashan? You bet! Why reviled a man who is feted by both the Canadian and Chinese governments. That is the ultimate reward in learning a second language well. Don’t look beyond the square, let Dashan be Dashan. We don’t need criticisms akin to wine judges’ comments leveled at Dashan, which few people understand.

  40. EugeneZ says:

    I had honor to be treated a very nice dinner at his parents’s house in Washington DC in 1990 ( I knew they also had residence in Canada). Having appeared on CCTV Spring Festival eve show in 1988, Dashan was just getting famous in China back then. His mother was the chairwoman of US-China friendship association DC chapter. As a foreign student from China, I was invited to a dinner at their house, where I met his whole family but not himself. Apparently his family was tremdously proud of him, and I believe that his brother Xiaoshan was also in China, and also speaks good Chinese.

  41. Archie says:

    Gosh, a lot of harsh words here about Dashan, he and his whole family are such nice people, perhaps one might change one’s opinion after getting to know them. Perhaps some facts may help too… Mark Rowswell was raised in Ottawa, never entering China until university, (although a friend of his mother’s was raised in China). His 2 brothers did not speak Chinese then, however his younger brother may now speak it, but I am not inclined to think so as this younger brother is an expert in Middle Eastern countries, and would much more likely be able to speak some arabic languages. Anyway all for now… (sorry credentials…. friend of family, helped out family in 70′s and on).. Archie

  42. James says:

    Yes, I am American, and have spent some time in China studying with other foreign students. If you’re talking about Massachusetts, New York, Texas, or some southern states, then yes, they have strong accents, but everywhere else in the US people have very neutral accents. In England, London is OK, but elsewhere is horrible. I have a friend from Yorkshire and I can’t understand what she says…we speak the same language! As for other Europeans, it’s best to stick to European languages.

  43. James says:

    Canadian accents are too bad… just a lot of eh’s and aboots lol

  44. Sherri says:

    Wow, just came across this posting. Was looking for sites about learning Mandarin and and in my surfing thought I’d check up on Dashan to see what he’s up to these days. Yes I’m Canadian, yes, I’m curious about how a nerdy boy from the west end of Ottawa could become so famous. Truly I’m sorry everyone is so anti Dashan. He’s satirical… I happen to have known the dude before he became famous and he’s always been paradoxical and something of a cute nerd… but never a bad guy, and always curious in an intellectual way. Figuring out Chinese for him, once hooked, would have been an obvious challenge. That he’s nailed the Chinese language and sense of humour is worthy of praise, not vitriol. This whole thing is likely taking him for a spin too. Would not be surprised if he was wholly amazed at his own fame… and the nerdy irony — he is likely amused.

  45. Sherri says:

    PS. Dashan did not grow up in China. He grew up in suburban Ottawa, Ontario Canada. His grandparents worked in Henan for 2 years in the 1920s and he was surrounded by the lore of China shared by way of family stories. Otherwise, he never actually visited China until he was 24 or 25 so yes he did learn Chinese as an adult only after he completed a degree in Chinese Studies at the University of Toronto (comparable in Canada to an American Ivy League university). This fact makes his fluency of chinese all the more impressive. Cheers!

  46. Jonathan says:

    Hes not special in any way. i come to Canada and go from being completely unable to speak any english to being able to speak perfect english in 1 YEAR. Do i get any credit for that and get to do speeches at olympic games? no, cause i was only 6 and got overlooked. Mark was the same as everyone else until he got lucky. Hes not the only bilingual person in the world.

    • jeff` says:

      Yeah, but chinese is harder than english right? or im sure thats what you’ll say if a laowai cant speak it well

  47. CrownOfShat says:

    I saw Dashan in a chinese Ford commercial and he speaks Cantonese perfectly.

    I remember seeing a guy on HK television who was a character actor on alot of cop dramas, and he spoke fluent cantonese. I heard he was some british dude.

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