By Dennis Abrams
Malcolm Moore in The Guardian reports that the once poor farming community of Gaomi in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong is being quickly transformed due to the Nobel Prize for Literature won last month by hometown boy Mo Yan.
Ambitious Communist party officials plan to spend 70 million pounds (roughly $112 million) to turn his family’s village into a “Mo Yan Culture Experience Zone,” starting with Mo Yan’s family home.
Shortly after Mo Yan’s win, a local official named Fan Hui visited Mr. Mo’s father to ask him to begin renovations. “Your son is no longer your son, and the house is no longer your house,” explained Mr. Fan according to the Beijing News, making clear that the author was now the pride of all of China, adding, “It does not really matter whether you agree or not.”
And while the family home has been designed as the main attraction of the “Mo Yan Culture Experience,” there are also plans to build a theme park based on Mr. Mo’s 1987 novel, Red Sorghum, despite the fact that sorghum, unwanted and unprofitable, is no longer planted in the area.
Mr. Fan said that the “Red Sorghum Culture and Experience Zone,” which will include the “Red Sorghum Film and Television Exhibition Area,” would need villagers to plant 1,600 acres of the unneeded crop. “We need to grow it,” he told Chinese media, “even it means losing money.”
Already, Gaomi’s restaurants have rushed to add “Red Sorghum” to their signs, and villagers have been instructed to raise a glass in honor of Mr. Mo before meals. And fans of Mr. Mo’s books have already begun to visit the area, suggesting perhaps that the proposed development might actually have an audience.
The Beijing News reported that “One visitor dug up a radish [from Mr. Mo’s vegetable patch]. He slipped it into his coat and showed it to villagers afterwards, saying, ‘Mo’s radish! Mo’s radish!’”
In another case, a visiting mother picked some yams and told her daughter, “I’ll boil them, so you can eat them and win the Nobel Prize too!” Eventually, Mr. Mo’s brother, Guan Moxin, was forced to intervene to save the family’s corn harvest, which had been left to dry in the sun, from being swept up by the village’s tidying committee.
Not everyone though, is as excited by Mr. Mo’s sudden fame. When asked by China Central Television whether he was happy, Mr. Mo responded, “I do not know.”