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Mo Money For Gaomi
Summary:Since it was announced Mo Yan would be China’s first Nobel Literature Prize recipient, interest in his hometown of Gaomi has exploded. From baked bun sellers to urban planners, everyone is trying to cash in on Mo’s name. The city plans to develop Mo tourism and brand itself as Mo’s hometown.






By Chong Ang (种昂)
Issue 591, Oct 22, 2012
Nation, page 10

 Translated by Zhu Na
Original article:

When Wang Defu (王德福) went to Beijing earlier this year to promote the organic grain products he sells, he visited author Mo Yan’s home. Since they both hail from the same hometown of Gaomi (高密) City in Shandong Province, Mo wrote a little note for Wang saying “Hometown millet is good for well-being.”

Wang never gets tired of telling this story to merchants. With Mo’s endorsement, Wang’s millet has been selling very well recently. Previously, it was mostly only sold to local merchants, but now Wang plans to sell nationwide. He’s also opened an online store.

Until recently, Gaomi was an unknown county-level city in eastern Shandong province with 860,000 people, modest economic development and an almost non-existent tourism industry. However, with the Oct 11 announcement that Mo Yan would become China’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gaomi became famous overnight.

“Mo Yan Fever

From small things like baked buns to bigger industries like urban planning, Gaomi and surrounding areas are sharing a “Nobel grand banquet” thanks to Mo Yan.

"In the past, there were few people visiting the Mo Yan Literature Museum,” said Mao Weijie (毛维杰), director of the museum and the Mo Yan Research Association. “Since Mo Yan won the literature prize, every day we’ve received up to a hundred people. Some are officials, some are people coming to give congratulations, but most are reporters from around the world. We’re overwhelmed."

The museum was opened to the public in 2008 and is located in Mo Yan’s former high school. It only has two stories with an exhibition area of about 1,900 square meters. After the Nobel announcement it couldn’t accommodate the influx of visitors, so plans were made to expand the museum within the year through government funding.

About a week after the announcement, the museum returned to its normal calm. However, this hasn’t subdued “Mo Yan Fever” in Gaomi and hopes of cashing in on the Nobel win. Hotels and shops across the city have been trying to attract business by using Mo’s name.

“We’re developing two or three kinds of liquor to mark Mo Yan’s prize,” said Zhang Jinyou (张金友), marketing manager of Gaomi Brewery. “They’re expected to launch to the market this month at the soonest.”

Since the Nobel announcement, merchants coming to do business have increased significantly. One merchant from Suzhou even made an order worth tens of thousands of Yuan from Zhang’s brewery.

Baked buns and roast chicken from Gaomi have also started putting introductions to Mo Yan on their labels; and the post offices of Gaomi and Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, have created a commemorative postmark with Mo’s portrait.

At the moment, local residents say Gaomi’s best-known specialty is “Mo Yan.”

The Celebrity Effect

On Oct 17, the Gaomi City Industry and Commerce Administration Bureau advised Mo to apply for intellectual property protection of his own name to prevent malicious infringement.

However, Mo Yan has already essentially become a business card in Gaomi. It used to be rare for people to have heard of the city when local government officals went out to attract investment. Now, they may still not know where it is but they’ll reply “Ah, Mo Yan’s hometown.”

After Mo won the prize, the Gaomi government held a meeting until midnight and decided that the Third Red Sorghum Cultural Festival would be held on Oct 28. Red Sorghum is one of Mo’s most famous novels, which spawned a 1987 film by the same name. According to one local official, a new theme celebrating Mo Yan’s Nobel win will be added to the festival this year.

Meanwhile, a wide range of Mo Yan-related tourism projects are also under development. A two-day tour has been designed and there are plans to renovate his old home.

Yang Jianhua (杨建华), mayor of Gaomi, said that the city will focus on developing “Mo Yan’s Hometown” as a cultural tourism brand.

The overnight explosion of interest in Mo Yan that’s sent so many scrambling to capitalize has left some a bit concerned though. A local official, who asked not to be named, simply said, “Low-key…it’s better to stay a bit low-key.”

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