Shares of Alibaba listed in the city surged 8.52% after Ma appeared in a video posted on Chinese social media addressing rural teachers as part of one of his charity foundation's initiatives. It was his first appearance following weeks out of the spotlight as his companies face increased regulatory scrutiny.
Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index advanced 1.08% to close at 29,962.47.
The moves in Chinese stocks came as the one-year prime rate (LPR) and five-year LPR in China were both left unchanged at 3.85% and 4.65%, respectively. It was in line with expectations of a majority of traders and analysts in a snap Reuters poll.
Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi finished its trading day 0.71% higher at 3,114.55.
Stocks in Japan lagged on the day, the Nikkei 225 declining 0.38% to 28,523.26 while the Topix index shed 0.34% to 1,849.58.
Shares in Australia edged higher, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.41% to close at 6,770.40.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares gained 0.97%.
In corporate developments, shares of South Korean automaker Kia Motors surged 5.04% after the firm said it is looking at electric car projects with multiple firms, Reuters reported citing a regulatory filing.
That development came after a local online publication reported that Kia's parent Hyundai Motor Group had decided Kia would be in charge of the proposed cooperation with Cupertino-based tech giant Apple on electric cars, according to Reuters.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.369 following an earlier low of 90.275.
The Japanese yen traded at 103.76 per dollar, stronger than an earlier level of 103.93 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7735, still off levels above $0.775 seen last week.
Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.93% to $56.42 per barrel. U.S. crude futures advanced about 1% to $53.50 per barrel.
— CNBC's Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Kia Motors' stock move occurred Wednesday.