Dashan on Why Foreigners Hate Dashan


After reading this post on Quora, I’m now quite convinced that no one has given the question of “why (western) foreigners hate Dashan so much” as much thought as Mark Rowswell, the man behind Dashan (大山).

I should warn you: the entire answer is quite long, but it’s worth a read. Mark breaks it down into these parts:

  1. Overuse – People are sick and tired of hearing the name “Dashan”;
  2. Resentment (Part A) – Dashan’s not the only Westerner who speaks Chinese fluently;
  3. Resentment (Part B) – Being a foreign resident in China is not easy and Dashan gets all the breaks;
  4. Political/Cultural – People wish Dashan had more of an edge; [I found Mark’s reasons for Dashan’s lack of an edge especially interesting, since they relate to a Chinese tendency toward sensitivity to foreign criticism]
  5. Stereotyping – The assumption that Dashan is a performing monkey.

Looks to me like people can quit asking this question. That’s the answer. But I also feel like we’re getting this definitive answer at a time when all the hubbub about Dashan has finally started to die down.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Peter Nelson Says: January 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    That was a very reasoned, adult response to (what I assume) is a constant (albeit impersonal) stream of abuse. insert that goofy 赞 emoticon that shows up all over

  2. This is obviously not the reason in all cases, but I do think that envy or something similar plays a role in at least some cases. Having a good attitude to those who are better than us at something we’re learning is not only healty, I think it’s essential if we want to learn.

  3. I never hated Dashan… He represents Canada in China.

    Anyways, great answer.

    But, as a Canadian, I’m still trying to figure out what his two paragraphs about Canadians meant. If I figure it out, I’ll make a comment on his answer on Quora…

    • I think he was trying to say “people want me to be cooler” which is true. Like almost all Beijing TV/Media in China, you’re allowed to do/say anything as long its pro-China. What’s ‘cool’ about giving ‘the man’ a hot stone massage?

      Considering all the obstacles he’s overcome, good for DaShan. I don’t hate him at all, I just roll my eyes when I occasionally hear the ‘you remind me of bla bla bla Chinese commentary from Taxi Drivers’. No big deal.

      Part of the reason Chinese love Dashan is (another point he dances around), he’s basically supplicating to them. Again, there’s nothing cool about someone who walks out and says, “I wish I was more like you”. Isn’t this what we made fun of skinny white kids with FUBU jeans hanging down to their ankles for in the 90s? Exactly.

      • I do believe Dashan already dealt with your objection with his “working within Chinese cultural norms” point. And it’s funny, because immigrants to the Anglo countries are expected to integrate and fit in to their host societies – work within cultural norms, in other words – and nobody accuses those who do integrate of supplicating. No, they’re congratulated. But there’s an awful lot of foreigners in or working with or concerned about China who seem to think we should be imposing our cultural norms rather than adapting to our host society.

        I can’t figure out what’s so hard about “入乡随俗”.

  4. I haven’t started reading the article yet, but my distaste for Mark Rosewell stemmed from how self-important he came off in the various interviews I’d read/seen. It rubbed me the wrong way.

  5. Dashan is very likeable, imo.
    Quite the opposite (i.e. gruesome) is “Peking duck”. Or, he WAS gruesome, until I stopped reading him, many years ago…

  6. I’m from the US yet I quite like Dashan. I also never heard any other foreigners mention any dislike for him.

    • It may also be that he’s fading into the background now that the numbers of foreigners with good Chinese – especially on TV and in film – are starting to get quite noticeable.

  7. He isn’t a performing monkey because he plays the bumbling foreigner. He intentionally misunderstood that one.

    He’s a performing monkey because he helps to put a happy face on a horrid system.

    • Yeah, or maybe he’s just a performer who happened to get truly good in an art form from a culture and in a language that were foreign to him. It’s not often that artists get really, truly good in a second language.

      Why does everything have to be politicised? Can’t we just sit back and enjoy ourselves some of the time?

  8. Ron, if that is your argument, shouldn’t you say the same thing about Jon and this blog?

    • It’s quite a bit different. This site is Jon’s hobby. His livelihood doesn’t depend on it. And I’m sure no small number of Jon’s readership find his “no politics” rules/defense/etc to be “trying” at best.

      Of course, people like Chris Waugh above in the comments certainly echo John’s position,

      “Why does everything have to be politicised? Can’t we just sit back and enjoy ourselves some of the time?”

      But I’m not sure how well that really holds up in general, regarding certain areas or with certain people.

  9. Blah Blogger Says: January 16, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Yeah, Peking Duck, Hidden Harmonies and sad to say China Law Blog are turning into cess pits of unfortunate and unmoderated sensationalist articles purely designed to grab views but with actually little remaining residual value. Egos take over I guess.

  10. Dashan's Love Child Says: January 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Dashan. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard since the mid-aughts.

    Perhaps folks dislike him because most generally dislike attention whores. Posting about why people don’t like him (Dashan) long after people stopped hearing about him, never mind giving a damn, seems a desperate grasp for the spotlight from a man whose time appears to have long since passed.

  11. The performing monkey argument is the giveaway to the real reason we don’t like him.

    Chinese performing monkey? No problem.
    Black and white minstrel performing monkey? No problem
    Uncle Tom performing monkey? Bring it on.


    (search deep within you Luke, you know it’s true)

  12. Why hate Dashan? Beacuse he is a performing monkey?
    That is ridiculous~~
    So how do you think Justin Bibber ? How do you think all the stars you have been liked and crazyed for ? Are they pure-hearted holy men?? Be fair~~ We hate him maybe part of racism as Phi said,but mostly beacuse we are jealous I insist~

  13. I’m going to have to go with number 1 and 5. For Chinese people, it’s just another round of ammunition. ‘Oh, Dashan knows Chinese so well. Westerners are all starting to learn Chinese’. A select few expats IN China ever learn fluent Chinese, and anyone studying outside China is up for a rude awakening when they show up to China and everyone shouts ‘HELLO!’

  14. I live in California, and have only been subjected to mainstream media until two years ago, which filters and spins everything to a viewpoint the rich and powerful want us to hold…I found the Dashan documentary very illuminating about People living in China, and his acceptance there. I love Dashan, and China (and the Chinese People) more now.
    I was surprised to read here that anybody didn’t like him, but, even though some of the reasons may be valid within a limited scope, we in the West have been brain-washed by the cultural manipulations of the rich and powerful.
    I use Dashan as a dopamine touch-stone, representing the relationships that exist and are possible…it’s quite a high when I think of him, and the People there. (yes, I get high off Dashan.)

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