The other side of Dashan

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The other side of Dashan
Mark Rowswell, known by his stage name Dashan in Xiangsheng performances, is commissioner general for the Canada Pavilion.

Mark Rowswell has no plans to perform Xiangsheng during Expo 2010 Shanghai, but one of China's most famous foreign residents said he could be back on stage after the event.

Rowswell, who goes by the Chinese stage name of Dashan when performing Xiangsheng (translated as "crosstalk", a traditional Chinese comedic performance in the form of a dialogue between two performers), said he could bring something different to audiences after Expo.

Over the past decade, the 45-year-old celebrity, who is also commissioner general for the Canada Pavilion at the Expo, has become one of the most recognized foreign faces in China, mainly through performing Xiangsheng and his work on television as an actor. But he said Xiangsheng, which propelled him to stardom in China in the 1990s, was only a small part of his repertoire.

"People see me as a performer, especially as a Xiangsheng performer, however, I've had nothing to do with that in the past 10 years," he said.

"I have now a huge circle that has taken me away from comedy, although I may go back to performing after Expo."

Rowswell said if he goes back to performing, it will be different from what he was doing a decade ago.

"I will perform something suited to the times and suited to me, not tongue twisters (like Xiangsheng). I have to do something new."

As commissioner general for the Canada Pavilion, Rowswell has transcended his role of a celebrity to top-level officialdom. But he does not see this as a big jump along his career path as the jobs are, in many ways, similar. He said the difference is that he used to work independently, but now he has to get more familiar with government systems and policymaking.

"People have that perception that Dashan is a strange choice for commissioner general, but the work is really suited to me," he said. "It is dealing between East and West, doing media work, dealing with VIPs and officials. It is exactly what I have been doing for the past 20 years."

As one of very few Chinese-speaking commissioner generals at the Expo, Rowswell said his language skills have made his work more effective, especially in meetings between Expo organizers and participants. He said having meetings with Expo organizers in their native tongue helps smooth procedures.

Rowswell has visited many pavilions in the Expo Garden. The UK Pavilion, also known as the "Seed Cathedral", impressed him most because of its unique design.

"It is a simple idea about green concepts but they did it very well."

Known by Chinese television audiences for more than two decades, Rowswell successfully maintained his popularity and recognition in China in a way no other foreign national has managed, including many who speak fluent Chinese and make regular appearances on television.

Besides Xiangsheng, Rowswell said he has done many different things in China and this has probably helped maintain his high profile.

"It is not a specific thing, it is a package of all kinds of things," he said. "Every time I am on television, even if I am not performing Xiangsheng, people still see me, so my image develops."

Although born in 1965, Rowswell looks to be in his 30s. His secret is: "Maintaining a good attitude towards life and never taking things too seriously."

"I never treat myself as a big star or VIP," he said.


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