Mo Yan

Mo Yan's hometown, Gaomi, plans to cash in on writer's Nobel Prize

Gaomi plans to spend 670m yuan on themed attractions celebrating writer's Nobel Prize, even though he may not be totally in favour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 5:19am

Count authorities in Mo Yan's hometown Gaomi among those looking to cash in on the writer's sudden fame since winning the Nobel Prize for literature last week.

Officials in the backwater Shandong city have announced plans to spend about 670 million yuan (HK$ 825 million) on Mo Yan-themed projects designed to lure tourists.

At the top of the list is a 666-hectare plantation of red sorghum, the coarse grain that Mo selected as the title of his break-out 1987 novel, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

The book was adapted into the film Red Sorghum by renowned mainland director, Zhang Yimou .

Red sorghum was once one of the main staples of residents of Gaomi, which provides the setting for the tale. But farmers stopped growing the crop in the 1980s as mainlanders grew more wealthy and sought out different food sources.

Other projects include creating a "Mo Yan Cultural Experience Zone" around his former home. There is a similar "Red Sorghum Cultural Leisure Zone", as well as an exhibition hall for Red Sorghum-themed film and television productions.

Mo seemed to be a little concerned about the flurry of reports about his hometown's efforts to profit from his Nobel fame.

"Some of them are true, some are false, some are misinformation and some are [simply] a joke," he said in Beijing yesterday on one of the few public appearances by the media-shy writer since he was named the Nobel winner last Thursday.

But Gaomi officials appeared undeterred. Authorities have earmarked about 500,000 yuan to renovate the dilapidated old farmhouse in Dalan where he lived, even though Mo earlier called the plan a waste of money.

Xue Tao , an official from the tourism bureau, said yesterday that provincial authorities ordered Gaomi to execute the tourism programme regardless of how the writer feels about it.

"We know he is a person who prefers to keep a low profile," Xue said. "But the campaign will go ahead no matter if he agrees or disagrees."

Gaomi municipal tourism director Wang Jianzhi said the agency was considering recommending that Shandong change its slogan from "one mountain, one waterway and one sage" - for Mount Tai, the Yellow River and Confucius - to "one mountain, one waterway, one sage and one great writer".

An official from the committee overseeing the tourism plan admitted the authorities were still trying to figure out how to come up with the money.

The official also acknowledged it would be difficult to convince local farmers to grow the unprofitable red sorghum.

Farmers shunned an earlier effort to promote the grain, even though they got a subsidy of two yuan for every kilogram.