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15:44 Sep 28 2011

Photo album of TibetSpecial ReportMedia Voice
English>>Tibet Online
Straight talk from Da Shan
14:04, May 31, 2010  

Rowswell is pictured with Tibet farmers when he joined other Chinese artists to stage a gala celebration for the traditional Tibetan New Year in China's Tibet Autonomous Region, photo from Shanghai Daily.

Highly popular on Chinese TV for crosstalk comedy, Mark Rowswell is shooting straight as Canada's top Expo guy, reports Nancy Zhang.

TV host and celebrity Da Shan is best known for being a Caucasian man who speaks perfect Mandarin. Starting out in Chinese crosstalk comedy, or xiangsheng, he has been on Chinese TV since the 1980s.

But the man behind the persona, Canadian Mark Rowswell, has spent a lifetime trying to show that he has more than novelty value.

As his TV career exceeds 20 years, and now with his new appointment as the commissioner general for the Canada Pavilion at the World Expo, it seems Da Shan is having the last laugh.

"I was really bowled over when they asked me to be commissioner general -- the role as all round cultural ambassador is really my ideal job," Rowswell said.

"Foreign media label me as a comedian, but I consider myself a cultural bridge in many ways. This role at the Expo is the highlight of my career," he said.

He stands out amongst the other commissioners general who are diplomats, politicians or senior businessmen. But this is not the first time Canada has appointed a cultural ambassador to an Expo.

Rowswell follows the paraplegic athlete and national hero Rick Hansen who represented Canada at the Brisbane Expo in 1988.

Nor is it the first time that Rowswell has been recognized by his country as a cultural bridge to China.

He was the cultural advisor to the Canadian team at the Beijing Olympics.

Rowswell's appointment makes sense as the Canada Pavilion emphasizes soft power. It is built in conjunction with the famous circus act, Cirque Du Soleil, a unique arrangement in the Expo's 189 participating countries and regions.

Covered in 4,000 square meters of Canadian red cedar on the outside, the pavilion shows how Canadian cities are both living and livable places.

They exhibit the values of multiculturalism and social inclusion, environmental sustainability and creativity.

Complimentary elements include a cultural program, Engaging Canadians initiatives, a business and trade program and legacy projects.

But for Rowswell, the recognition from the Western side of the bridge has been hard won.

Da Shan, foreigner next door"My stage persona, Da Shan, is not a big star or a sex symbol. He is the foreigner next door. He may be from the other side of the world, but somehow there's something very familiar about him."Arriving in China as a 23-year-old student of Mandarin at Beijing University, he shot to fame after appearing in a comedy sketch for the CCTV Chinese New Year extravaganza in 1988. In those days, said Rowswell, it was like the Ed Sullivan era in North America.

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