Mo Yan, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature , has been the center of quite a lot of buzz . He is the first Chinese national who has won a Nobel but was neither in prison nor on exile. Many of the discussions on Mo Yan have been focusing on his political stance, instead of his literature works. He has been accused by many of dancing with the devil (the Chinese government). Sadly, this post isn’t about his literature achievements, either. It’s about the profitability of Mo Yan, a profitability not only to himself, but to everybody else.
Mo’s Noble will hugely increase sales of his books. That’s for sure. According to an article by Global Times, numbers from Dangdang.com, China’s leading online book retailer, sales of Mo’s books increased 6 to 7 times when speculations of him winning started to emerge. Now sales have soared by 10 times after he won. Increased book sales by a Nobel winning writer are hardly news. What’s surprising is how Mo’s Nobel has promoted other industries in China. For example, tourism, real estate, Chinese white wine, roast chicken…you name it.
Gaomi, Mo Yan’s hometown located in Shandong province, decided to invest 670 million yuan in a tourism project that centers around Mo Yan family’s old house. The multi-million project includes developing a designated area for experiencing Mo Yan culture, planting several thousand acres of red sorghum (Red Sorghum is probably Mo Yan’s first bestseller in China), building a country resort and setting up a patriotism education center.
Mo Yan’s old house in Gaomi
The highlight of the story (no, not red sorghum planting) is when local officials came to Mo’s father and tried to persuade him to approve a government-sponsored renovation of their old housei. This is how it goes,
“Your son is no longer your son, and your house is no longer your house, either. Mo Yan has become Gaomi’s public resource. Your disapproval may not have any impact.”
Guess what? The offer was turned down. But like that official said, the disapproval may not mean anything.
In an interview right after Mo’s winning news came out, Mo said: “I plan to use the prize money to buy an apartment in Beijing. A big apartment. Then I was reminded that 7.5 million yuan cannot really buy any BIG apartment in Beijing. Assume the price is 50k per square meter, 7.5 million is only enough for an apartment of about 120 square meter.” Later, Mo’s wife confirmed the plan. She told journalists that three generations of the family, including Mo’s father, Mo and herself, their daughter, their son-in-law and their granddaughter, all live in an apartment of about 91 square meter. It’s a bit crowded and Mo has long wanted to buy a bigger apartment. But apparently, the prize isn’t enough. Mo and his family will have to wait for money from rocketing book sales.
The moment when Mo told that he wished to buy a big apartment in Beijing with the prize money, netizens have joked that some real estate boss should give an apartment to Mo for free because it’s perfect marketing. Though none of the real estate big shots responded to the call, Chen Guangbiao, China’s most controversial philanthropist, jumped in (who has smashed luxury cars to promote green awareness and who sells canned fresh air). He posted an open letter online, saying that he will be “more than happy to let Mo freely pick up one of his two villas within Beijing’s Second Ring. One is 870 square meter and the other 630.”
Once again, the offer was turned down. Mo’s father commented, “Mo is the child of a farmer. We don’t take anything that isn’t earned by our own hands.” And once again, Chen was accused of hyping up a public stunt.
But Mo’s failed attempt to buy a big apartment in Beijing hasn’t prevented real estate companies from using his name and image in marketing.
Real estate ad by Royal Park (specific location unknown): “Shush! It’s good apartment. Mo yan.” (Mo yan, in Chinese, means “don’t speak/don’t tell/shut up.”)
Real estate ad by an unknown company, “Congratulations to Mo Yan on his Nobel Prize in Literature.” “Right in CBD, Mo yan locations.” “Buyers will be given Mo Yan’s Nobel-winning novel Frog as gifts.”
Lang Jiu, a famous Chinese white wine brand, re-published an advertising article Mo Yan wrote for them in 2011. The article is titled “Water is the soul of wine.” The brand hopes the piece can bring higher sales. And the most ridiculous of all, some local businesses from Gaomi apparently has already started to sell “Mo Yan” roast chickens.
Such cashing-in-on-whatever-is-hot-now frenzy can be seen everywhere in China. If someone becomes well-known, no matter it’s out of good or bad reasons, s/he will soon be seen as someone who can bring commercial benefits. Guo Meimei, the girl who almost entirely destroyed the image of China Red Cross among Chinese consumers, has been invited to TV shows, featured in fashion magazines, and even opened her own Taobao store after the scandal. In a sense, Mo Yan is no dfferent from Gou Meimei. The twisted environment in China somehow manages to turn both glory and shame into money. After all, money is all that matters for many Chinese right now.