Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Big Mountain
November 28, 2006 9:29 PM   Subscribe

How can one bit actor have hundreds of millions, perhaps over a billion adoring fans and yet be a virtual unknown in his native land? Ask Mark Rowswell, aka DaShan. In 1988, Rowswell won a scholarship to study Chinese at the prestigious Peking University. More than twenty years later he has one of the most recognizable faces in China. He's been awarded and investigated for his work in film, on stage, in television, in commercials and for charity. So just who the heck is he?
posted by Pollomacho (57 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome post. DaShan is really charming on screen and has a reputation for being an all around nice guy. Very cool to see this set of links!
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:35 PM on November 28, 2006


I'm impressed that anyone could ever be funny in a non-native language. Seems to me like that would be really difficult.
posted by geekhorde at 9:41 PM on November 28, 2006


Fascinating. The cynic in me wants to say his popularity is based on the fact that China needed a token white dude, but the more I read, the less I think this is the case. He just seems like an honestly interesting guy (which any culture can respect.)

It may be worth noting that Americans are frequently oblivious to cultural phenomenons happening in other countries. Jackie Chan was also beloved by billions before he was 'discovered' by American audiences with Rumble in the Bronx. And I have little doubt that Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Jet Li also fit this profile.

For being a big, vibrant country, sometimes we can be a bit insular. Especially when dealing with our entertainment.

[Full disclosure: I fully plan on marrying Michelle Yeoh. I'm not sure how since she has no idea who I am, my wife would probably have issue with me leaving her and/or taking an additional wife, and she has 9 years on me and is probably looking for someone more mature. But I do so love her.]
posted by quin at 9:56 PM on November 28, 2006


The equivalent foreign star like this in Japan is Thane Camus. Grandson of Albert Camus, to boot.
posted by zardoz at 9:58 PM on November 28, 2006


Huh. Rachel DeWoskin (from the second link) was my high school English teacher's daughter. I'm always a little startled when I'm reminded what a big name she is in China.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:00 PM on November 28, 2006


geekhorde : I'm impressed that anyone could ever be funny in a non-native language. Seems to me like that would be really difficult.

See my aforementioned Jackie Chan. Also reference Jerry Lewis, and David Hasselhoff (I don't get it either.) Hell considering the differences between the Queen's English and what we speak in the states, it's a small miracle that Americans find British humor amusing.

But I totally concede your point. These are clearly the exceptions, not the rules.
posted by quin at 10:01 PM on November 28, 2006


There's a handful of westerners here in Korea who play very similar roles -- incredibly well known and recognizable (but only in Korea), on TV all the damn time, mostly because they were already long-term residents a decade or more ago when there were very few foreign residents indeed and even fewer who were fluent in Korean, and there were in the right place at the right time. They tend to make very good livings blithely reinforcing stereotypes, tugging their forelocks, and shilling product for the highest bidders.

Every time I see one of the smarmy grinning fucks on the tube, I get into a slappin' mood. I'm bitter and cranky that way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:06 PM on November 28, 2006


In 1988, Rowswell won a scholarship to study Chinese at the prestigious Peking University. More than twenty years later he has one of the most recognizable faces in China.

Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?
posted by letitrain at 10:09 PM on November 28, 2006


Wow, those comments in the "heck" link are pretty harsh, although I sort of understand why, after reading this from the Guardian article:

Some foreign bloggers in China allege that Dashan is a little too close to the Chinese authorities for comfort. Rowswell was the first foreigner to be accepted for formal training in "xiangsheng"; his entry into this hitherto closed world came in the months immediately following Tiananmen Square, and some have even suggested that his high-profile on-screen appearances served a propaganda function at the time, projecting an illusion of normality when, in reality, most foreigners were heading for the airport.

Can you imagine being one of the students in the Square that day, and then seeing this guy doing his government-approved act soon after? I dunno, I'm sorta wary of media clowns who rake in the money while claiming they're too "apolitical" to take a stand, like Dashan does in this review posted at his site:

"There is some criticism that I'm a sycophant of the Chinese government and all that, but I'm just not involved in politics," he said. "They have never put me on a show and said we are going to do a show about Taiwan or Tibet or about how great human rights are in China. "I don't see what is to be gained simply by standing on a soapbox and preaching."

...Rowswell's success has spawned other foreign personalities who face similar choices. Daniel Newham, a 25-year-old British host of two weekly shows on Chinese state television, says questioning China's politics would end his career.

"There are two golden rules about what to avoid when you have dinner at someone's house, right? Politics and religion," said Newham, known as Da Niu, or Big Ox. "I avoid pretty much anything political. I'm satisfied as long as I get paid."


Yech. Those are some sticky moral and political issues that, on first glance, Dashan et al seem to be papering over kind of glibly. Does anyone really believe that state-approved television in China is really "apolitical?" But thanks for this post, Pollomacho; it's fascinating stuff I knew nothing about.
posted by mediareport at 10:11 PM on November 28, 2006


Sorry letitrain, missed that in the final edit. Was going to say he started taking Chinese at the U of Toronto in 1984 and more than 20 years later...
posted by Pollomacho at 10:29 PM on November 28, 2006


For being a big, vibrant country, sometimes we can be a bit insular. Especially when dealing with our entertainment.

Yeah, I can't believe Americans aren't rallying behind Chinese language shows shown only in China. I think the general point is sound, but using DaShan as an example makes no sense. If his stuff was put on NBC at prime time, no one would be able to understand him because few non-Chinese people in the US understand Mandarin.

I also don't think it is a big deal he remains apolitical. I really don't care what entertainers think about politics, as long as they remain apolitical. Once they take political stands, then it makes sense to criticize them for such stands or their lack of political involvement in other areas. I don't think it is necessary for every American actor to spout on NSA wiretaps and I don't need Steve Coogan to have an opinion on whether the UK should be in Iraq. Karl Pilkington, though, I would like to know what he thinks about it.
posted by Falconetti at 10:37 PM on November 28, 2006


Pretty fascinating stuff and a good reminder that the US isn't the center of the universe, any universe.
posted by fenriq at 10:40 PM on November 28, 2006


quin: For being a big, vibrant country, sometimes we can be a bit insular. Especially when dealing with our entertainment.

Falconetti: Yeah, I can't believe Americans aren't rallying behind Chinese language shows shown only in China.

Which prompts the question: why aren't any of these shows shown in America? Does America not have a channel like Australia's SBS, which broadcasts subtitled shows from overseas? It's not as if subtitles are that expensive to add, and the shows can be syndicated all over the place.

/derail
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:50 PM on November 28, 2006


For the record, I really didn't dig at all, I looked over the linked sites and saw a guy that was popular and charitable who seemed well liked. Of course when dealing with a juggernaut like China, it may be assumed that an entertainer would also be politico shill, but I find myself in the very unaware crowd that I mentioned earlier.

All I see is a guy who in the '80's did the unimaginable and learned a really non-high-school-program language (mandarin; which I have been trying to learn for the last year, damnit.) Who shuffled off to the Far East and became popular.

If there is more here, I would be happy to follow. I have no dog in this fight. If this is a bad man, I'm willing to grab a torch, but I haven't seen that so far.
posted by quin at 10:53 PM on November 28, 2006


Yes, I would like Karl Pilkington's opinion on just about everything.
posted by Juggermatt at 11:00 PM on November 28, 2006


UbuRoivas, we really don't. Which is, honestly, our loss. I work for a cable company and one of my perks is that I get pretty much every channel. I've watched stuff that isn't in any basic package that cracked me up. And for my money, it's our loss. It's not like it isn't subtitled or anything, it's just not popular.

Which is a real shame. Honestly, there is some truly brilliant stuff out there that the mainstream will never see. One can only hope that in the not too far off future, the Internet will be a better vector for some of these programs and more Americans will be exposed to the geniuses that other countries have to offer.

Till then, we still have American Idol. Which only brings out the urge to kill occasionally.

/Offtopic: The doctors tell me that I'm improving.
posted by quin at 11:03 PM on November 28, 2006


Which prompts the question: why aren't any of these shows shown in America?

I am pretty sure we don't have a good equivalent of SBS in America. I still don't think Chinese variety shows or very culturally specific forms of comedy that are reliant on the nuances of the language, like "crosstalk" would do well in America, let alone anywhere outside China.

But, it is lamentable that there is no equivalent to SBS in the US. I remember when I learned Kleislowski's Dekalogue was originally aired on Polish television and I couldn't believe it. Wish we got some of that sort of stuff in the US (Lars von Trier also had some "films" I liked that I later learned were written for TV).

Is SBS funded by the Australian government, like BBC is by Britain? That is probably the answer right there. There is/are weird channel(s) high up on the UHF dial that show foreign television, but it is never translated and I don't really know where that channel comes from.

Most foreign language programming that catches on in the US is motivated by a leading edge fanbase that creates broader interest, like with anime or some British TV shows.
posted by Falconetti at 11:06 PM on November 28, 2006


Till then, we still have American Idol.

Imported from Britain. ;)
posted by Falconetti at 11:07 PM on November 28, 2006


I certainly don't see why Americans would know of this guy. I mean, America is a moderately large country, not a tiny liberal arts college that sends out monthly updates on what graduates are doing. I wouldn't expect most Americans to know every American that is famous in Japan ("Quick, pop quiz! Which American historical figure who lived in Japan said the famous line 'Boys, be ambitious'? "), nor for Russians to know every Russian that's famous in India, nor for Nigerians to know every Nigerian that's famous in Peru.

Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting post, but "he's an American who is famous somewhere, but that somewhere isn't America!!" isn't the interesting part.
posted by Bugbread at 11:11 PM on November 28, 2006


Meh, non-ethnically Chinese people in China who speak great Chinese are a dime a dozen these days. Dashan's Chinese is really good, though it sounds just a little off to my ears (no doubt my Chinese sounds quite a bit off to others' ears). A friend of mine (who also has really good Chinese) had a hilarious webpage spoofing Dashan but Danshan caught wind of it and asked him to take it down because he had a reputation to maintain.

But I'm probably just jealous because I'm actually more of a Sarcasm Monkey than a Happy Monkey.
posted by Poagao at 11:13 PM on November 28, 2006


Falconetti : Till then, we still have American Idol.

Imported from Britain. ;)


I actually did know that, but I will not deny you an honest 'well played sir,' nonetheless.

Because I'm betting few others were aware of how much of our reality TV is just outright stolen from the UK.

So, well played, Sir.
posted by quin at 11:43 PM on November 28, 2006


A lot of foreigners in China come to loathe Da Shan because we will almost certainly be compared with him at some point during our time in China (if not hundreds of times). Usually something to the effect of "Your Chinese is good, but not as good as Da Shan's," "Your Chinese is as good as Da Shan's," (almost always a lie), and often "You look like Da Shan, but he is taller than you." He seems to be the standard on which all Mandarin-speaking foreigners are based.

I actually met Da Shan about six years ago in a bar in Beijing. He was quite nice to me and we took a picture together, which is quite a conversation piece for Chinese and foreigners alike. He really is THAT well known here. And compared to the somewhat sleazy uses to which many foreigners put their often vastly overrated Mandarin skills, I think he's sincere and doing some good work, even if he is sometimes a bit too deferential to Chinese authority and expectations of foreigners, IMHO.
posted by banishedimmortal at 12:00 AM on November 29, 2006


I hate to be a spoil-sport, but I live in China, and I have to put up with this guy's picture everywhere. Yes, his Chinese is fantastic. Yes, he's the first non-Chinese to be taken into the crosstalk circle. Okay. Trust me when I tell you that politics have nothing to do with what he does. He's a big ol' snuggy bear.

If there were an American equivalent, it would be something like a San who learns English and then goes on to have a career in standup by telling jokes that Pat Boone would have thought were tame. Sound interesting? No. He was amazing because 20 years ago, white people just didn't speak Chinese. Now, well, I'm a white person who speaks Chinese, and I'm funnier than this fucker.

"Classic Chinese comedy", or crosstalk, is basically standup with two people. It's skit comedy. Sure, it plays on nuances of the language, just as much as it plays on fart jokes and ridiculous situations. It's a lot like Amos & Andy, or like Big Mountain himself says, Abbot & Costello. Has it's moments, is actually funny, and has a lot of potential that isn't taken advantage of to be scathing and relevant. That's not to say it can't be. It is to say that since this government's media policy is one big "think positive" campaign (in regard to sensitive topics or otherwise), if you use it like comedy should be used, you won't get airtime, and without airtime you get no money. State-owned TV isn't just not about politics, it's not about anything but sunshine and birds and rainbows, because life might suck, but hey, smile and bear the load. Meta-political, maybe, but not directly so.

It's fun for us expats to hate on DaShan like I imagine it's fun for African-Americans to hate on Bill Cosby. He's no more of a scrill than Cosby is, and he's no more interesting than Cosby was 40 years ago for being a "negro" comedian who did non-offensive comedy. To me as an American and arm-chair sociologist, he's a non-issue. To me as someone who wants to be respected and understood as a complex human being in China whose nationality and culture aren't the only interesting facets of who I am, he's someone that I'd rather disappear. Like the article said, "Da Shan" is the equivalent of Bubba, and that's the image that people get in their heads of "foreigners". If I ever get famous for my Chinese, shit's gonna go down like Richard Pryor, because I will not fucking stand on TV and giggle about some dumb fuck who collects Coke cans.

/axe ground
posted by saysthis at 12:17 AM on November 29, 2006 [3 favorites]



Ob YouTube
posted by RavinDave at 1:44 AM on November 29, 2006


Quin, there's no SBS in the states, but on the digital cable package I had there, I could watch international news on one channel, and then switch over to multiple other ones to see international movies and TV shows. If you want to find an equivalent type of channel to SBS, it can be done, but I suppose it would depend on your local cable provider. SBS is nice for bringing it all into one place, though. I just wish they'd get rid of that shitstain of a show, "Drawn Together".
posted by barnacles at 1:45 AM on November 29, 2006


Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting post, but "he's an American who is famous somewhere, but that somewhere isn't America!!" isn't the interesting part.

No, the interesting part is that he is Canadian.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:55 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Poagao ... You're aware that John met with Da Shan at Malones later and ammended his opinion quite a bit, right? From all accunts, Da Shan was quite the gentleman.

Not that doesn't mean we can't poke fun at him -- I do all the time. He's an easy target cuz (let's face it) he comes off as a bit of a dork. But it's good-natured ribbing. I have quite a bit of respect for what he's done and wish him all the best.
posted by RavinDave at 1:56 AM on November 29, 2006


Yeah, I know. I was just relating what happened as I was told by John and others close to the situation. I've never met Dashan so I can't offer an opinion on what he's like in person.

Actually, I'm a bit surprised John isn't on Mefi, or if he is, he hasn't posted about it here.
posted by Poagao at 2:10 AM on November 29, 2006


Actually, in an example of what I was talking about earlier, this guy probably has better Chinese skillz than Da Shan, but nobody knows about him. And there are probably at least a few more westerners out there just like him.
posted by Poagao at 2:13 AM on November 29, 2006


Some foreign bloggers in China allege that Dashan is a little too close to the Chinese authorities for comfort. Rowswell was the first foreigner to be accepted for formal training in "xiangsheng"; his entry into this hitherto closed world came in the months immediately following Tiananmen Square, and some have even suggested that his high-profile on-screen appearances served a propaganda function at the time, projecting an illusion of normality when, in reality, most foreigners were heading for the airport.

I'd say there's no question that the CCP had to explicitly approve his appearing in their media, and that they did so (and do so) for propaganda purposes. He is a talented man, but as the Western face of Chinese media, he's necessarily doing bland material with no content that would offend.

Another popular show in China features random Westerners singing Chinese songs, in Mandarin. Some of them can sing, lots of them can't. This is not a Chinese Idol contest. Picture a variety in the U.S. show with a series of mostly-untalented Asian people singing old standards. Can't see it happening? Me either. So why is it something they do in China? I think it has to do with the CCP's collective (!) fear that China is not respected in the West, so having actual Westerners take the trouble to try and be fluent in Chinese is validating. I see Dashan as another aspect of the same phenomenon.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:26 AM on November 29, 2006


Poagao, I know you haven't looked for fame in Taiwan but didn't you make the rounds on TV? I don't think that's a bad thing, and I think your life and book have probably opened a lot of eyes. Getting Taiwanese people to think about nationality, race, duty and some other important issues... good stuff. (I always think of you more as a "Bouncy Monkey", by the way. :) )

People often told me in Taiwan that I should go on -- what was that program called? 世界大不同? And I have somewhat happily forgotten who the host of it was. Pretending to try to resolve cultural understandings while mostly reinforcing local folks' stereotypes. Blech.

I get far more comparisons to Dashan since I came back to the US, naturally because there are a lot more Mainland folks here. It hasn't gotten to the point of true irritation yet, but I have to admit I don't like it that the first thing so many people think of when they see me speak Mandarin is "Ooh, honky speaking Mandarin -> Dashan!" It'll be a long time before people can get over the idea of a non-Chinese person speaking a Chinese language, I fear.

...

By the way, some Chinese language channels are available in the US. A fair number of my clients have them, I know, here in Minnesota. The selection isn't great -- just Star, CCTV and TBS, I think -- but it isn't nothing.
posted by jiawen at 2:41 AM on November 29, 2006


John Pasden is kind of a FLICKR fanatic and has bunches of wonderful Chinese-themed shots. He snapped a few from his encounter with Da Shan.

btw Paogoa ... I'm pretty sure John IS on MeFi. He seemed very familiar with us when we mentioned it on ChinesePod once. If he doesn't pop up, I'll ascribe it to the tremendous amount of hard work he's currently doing to make that the wonderful site it is. John's a great guy and a true inspiration.
posted by RavinDave at 2:47 AM on November 29, 2006


Jiawen, I admit I've done a few spots here and there on TV and in magazines, but I never went looking for such opportunities, and I certainly haven't made a career out of it. Jeff Locker is more like the "Da Shan" of Taiwan than I'll ever be. And that's fine; to each his own, and it takes more than language skills to be popular in the media.

RavinDave, if that's the case, I should just shut up and let John speak on the issue when he gets the time. When I was staying at his place in Shanghai last month he was always on the computer working on his (impressive) site, so I can understand why he's not checking the blue every hour.
posted by Poagao at 3:04 AM on November 29, 2006


What's more impressive to me about Poagao is not that he speaks Chinese, but that he served in the Taiwanese army (I still can't get over that, TC).

I wish I was more fluent in Cantonese (and really, I ought to be by now), but that's what I get for being somewhat of a hermit.

And not taking classes.
posted by bwg at 3:30 AM on November 29, 2006


So why is it something they do in China? I think it has to do with the CCP's collective (!) fear that China is not respected in the West, so having actual Westerners take the trouble to try and be fluent in Chinese is validating.

I'm not sure your theory computes, my wife actually competed on one of these shows in Taiwan and to my knowledge she did it without the express permission of the CCP. That was years before there were enough laowai in the mainland to hold such a contest.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:13 AM on November 29, 2006


A Canadian toadying to the Chinese?

Shoe, meet other foot: prease to googer "Wok with Yan"!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:40 AM on November 29, 2006


BWG: if I can get my book published in English maybe I'll get my own MeFi thread instead of derailing others. One can hope.

And my Taiwanese could be better, too.
posted by Poagao at 7:47 AM on November 29, 2006


I certainly don't see why Americans would know of this guy. I mean, America is a moderately large country

Even moreso since he's from Canada.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:28 AM on November 29, 2006


arcticwoman writes "Even moreso since he's from Canada."

Already noted and flagged as a favorite here. No need to rub salt in.
posted by Bugbread at 9:56 AM on November 29, 2006


I'm not sure your theory computes, my wife actually competed on one of these shows in Taiwan and to my knowledge she did it without the express permission of the CCP. That was years before there were enough laowai in the mainland to hold such a contest.
Pollomacho, your quote here makes it sound like you're not aware of the difference between Taiwan and Mainland China. Is that the case?
posted by jiawen at 11:38 AM on November 29, 2006


UbuRoivas writes "Does America not have a channel like Australia's SBS, which broadcasts subtitled shows from overseas? "

TV in the US varies a lot location by location. Sure, there are the big four networks that everyone gets, but most people also have cable service, and the available content changes depending on the service provider and the geographic location. If you pay for a big digital cable package, you're likely to get a lot of foreign-produced content. And in the big cities, there are even terrestrial broadcasters serving foreign language and foreign-produced content, mostly as a service to the large immigrant communities. Here in LA, I can watch programs in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Since this programing is mostly geared towards immigrant communities, however, subtitles aren't used consistently. Plently of subtitled Korean soaps, though. They're actually pretty good....
posted by mr_roboto at 11:40 AM on November 29, 2006


I'm pretty sure pollo knows the difference; he was in Beijing, last I heard. My question is whether the CCTV "Westerners Sing Chinese Songs" programs are a contest. I didn't think they were, but I could be wrong.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:17 PM on November 29, 2006


Well, one thing is certain. The Western world who doesn't know Da Shan now will get more than enough of him when the '08 Olympics roll through.
posted by RavinDave at 12:53 PM on November 29, 2006


Is SBS funded by the Australian government, like BBC is by Britain?

Yes, although they now have a small amount of advertising, as well. Incidentally, I heard on a thread the other day that the BBC is funded by the television licence fees, not by regular taxation.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2006


Pollomacho, your quote here makes it sound like you're not aware of the difference between Taiwan and Mainland China. Is that the case?

What difference? One, big harmonious China, la la la -not listening- la la la *fingers in ears*

Oh yes, I am aware of the difference between the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (aka Mainland) particularly in light of the fact that as an American living in Beijing I get asked at least once a week if I think the US and China will go to war over Taiwan (my new standard answer is, "No, we will go to war over North Korea").

My question is whether the CCTV "Westerners Sing Chinese Songs" programs are a contest. I didn't think they were, but I could be wrong.

I suppose technically they are more of a variety show, though there are prizes. I believe there is actually a winner. The Taiwanese version was definitely a contest. Also the foreigner-fear-factor type show they hold during the fall festival is definitely a contest, though the real winner is whomever decides not to participate in the humiliation!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:52 PM on November 29, 2006


I get asked at least once a week if I think the US and China will go to war over Taiwan (my new standard answer is, "No, we will go to war over North Korea").

Heh. As a Canadian living long-term in Korea, if talk turns to geopolitical stuff (which it rarely does, thank god), my stock prediction is precisely the opposite -- that if the US and China get into a dustup over Taiwan, lil' Kim will take the opportunity to go for broke, because at that point, why the hell not? The Chinese'd already be going at it with the Americans, so they'd be bound to support him in a New Korean War, even when the US puts more boots on the ground in the ROK, I imagine his thinking would go. I actually do think were the blood and feathers to start flying on the peninsula again, this'd be the likeliest scenario.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:18 PM on November 29, 2006


Okay, then I don't understand. Were you being ironic?
posted by jiawen at 10:20 PM on November 29, 2006


I was saying that the Taiwanese have been doing these little "contests" for years so I don't think that Kirth's hypothesis that they do them in the PRC because the Party is using them for propaganda purposes holds up.

I think, rather, that they have them in the mainland because they were popular in Taiwan.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:37 PM on November 29, 2006


Ah, thanks for the followup. Like jiawen, I wasn't following at all, but now I understand what you're saying, and it makes sense.
posted by Bugbread at 2:04 AM on November 30, 2006


Yep, makes sense to me now, too. Thanks.

...

It strikes me as interesting that Taiwan has cycled through so many Waiguoren-who-speak-Chinese over the years (Samantha K or whatever her name was, Chocolate, Jeff, a few others too) while China has pretty much just had Dashan... Or maybe Mainland has had more than I'm aware of? It seems like the Taiwanese media are on a much faster "churn" than Mainland.
posted by jiawen at 7:33 AM on November 30, 2006


The mainland is getting a later start. There are more and more everyday. Taiwan still sets a lot of the pop culture pace for the mainland, but Shanghai is really starting to catch up and HK as usual is doin' its own thing.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:51 PM on November 30, 2006


Oh man, I'd forgotten all about Samantha K. Her Chinese was truly awful. Chocolate's wasn't that great, but Samantha K was just embarrassing. Jeff is miles ahead of both of them, though.

I wonder, where are they all now?
posted by Poagao at 12:12 AM on December 1, 2006


ChinesePod made reference to Linese.com, which is a recent website/portal sponsored by the Chinese government for the express purpose of promoting Mandarin to foreigners. Though still in the early stages (read: jury's out on its utility and the Chinese government has a bad track record in this arena), they note that: "The shows are hosted by 韩佳 (Hán Jiā), a Chinese girl, and 大牛 (Dà Niú), a British guy named Daniel who speaks amazing Chinese." Along with CCTV's "Travel In Chinese" (a Da Shan project, btw), which features Eve Bower, it looks like there is not much novelty left in being a Westerner speaking Mandarin. I also heard that there is a black guy hoping to parlay his Mandarin skills into celebrity, but that was (alas) a throwaway line I read in a Shanghai newspaper, so I don't know much more about it.
posted by RavinDave at 1:32 AM on December 1, 2006


The mainland is getting a later start.
I agree -- it feels like that to me, too.

I didn't see much of Samantha K., so I don't know much about her Mandarin. Struck me that she was deliberately doing the 外國人 accent, though. Did we see her real Mandarin level? Jeff is definitely much more accomplished than either Samantha or Chocolate.

I wonder, where are they all now?
I wonder, too.

RavinDave, I've seen a few of those Chinese teaching shows over the years, and they often had the same 一中一外 format, but I don't remember any of those hosts ever becoming particularly famous. Did Dashan get started that way?
posted by jiawen at 8:52 PM on December 1, 2006


Jiawen ... actually it was the other way around. DaShan was asked to do the series because he was famous. Those CCTV shows are notoriously bad; they had no idea how to teach language and wound up with what was essentially a video phrase book. Looks like they might have taken note of that though; their newest attempts to support Mandarin look to be much more grounded in sound linguistics.
posted by RavinDave at 12:25 AM on December 2, 2006


Cool. It'd be good if they produce some useful shows. As I mentioned, I've seen some of those shows before and they were as you said, stinkers.
posted by jiawen at 1:29 AM on December 2, 2006


Hey Poagao -- thanks for the link.

I actually got approached through the blog and asked if I wanted to be on TV a couple of times -- once for a CCTV travel thing, once for a Hunan Satellite reality TV show which was looking for "a western military academy-style instructor." (This is riotously funny to anybody who knows what I look like.) My impression is that there is certainly work available for sinologue gringos who want to be on TV, but that they'll still be stuck in the "foreigners are so funny!" pigeonhole.

There are a few Chinese-speaking foreigners who turn up on TV from time to time -- David Moser and Richard Doran, for example, both of whom also do cross-talk and have excellent Chinese.
posted by bokane at 5:52 AM on December 2, 2006


« Older Diet trials. Is it time to reconsider changing wha...  |  To be a Sapeur in Kinshasa is ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments