China Beat Archive



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May 11, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright May 11, 2008. Used by permission.


If you pay any attention to developments in Chinese publishing, even if only casually, you have probably come across one or more stories by now aboutcounterfeit sequels to and unauthorized spin-offs to the Harry Potter series. And as I mentioned in my recent post about Wolf Totem, that book, too, has inspiredfake Chinese sequels (Wolf King of the Plains, for example, and not just one but two books unoriginally called Wolf Totem 2, both allegedly but neither actually by Jiang Rong) and spin-offs (a series of novels about Tibetan Mastiffsthat have become best-sellers in their own right, plus non-fiction works about the practical value of following the “way of the wolf”).

But the most intriguing case, to me at least, of a book that not only became a bestseller in China but also gave birth to a plethora of linked titles is Who Moved My Cheese? This work, which offers suggestions on coping with change in the workplace and in life, sold an enormous number of copies when first published in the United States. And it inspired some spin-offs, such asNobody Moved Your Cheese! But in China, it did much more than that, giving birth to a whole subgenre and having its title make its way into popular discourse in a variety of curious ways. I first became aware of the book’s impact on a 2002 visit to the great Jifeng Books branch located in a Shanghai subway station, which is among my favorite places to go when in the city to browse the shelves, buy new texts, and check out publishing trends. “Oh,” I thought, when my eye caught a Chinese edition of the management guide, “so they’ve decided to translate that, have they?” But no sooner had the words formed than I saw five or six other books that riffed on the title. I thought this strange, and then soon after returning to the U.S. enjoyed reading a lively July 2007 piece by Sheila Melvin in theInternational Herald Tribune, “Chinese Smile and Say ‘Cheese,’” that was devoted to “the cheese phenomenon” in the PRC. Melvin said that no fewer than “50 copycat versions” and plays on the title of the original had appeared in China, including ones like I Won’t Move Your Cheese and Who Dared to Move My Cheese? Strangest of all, perhaps, was one with the unlikely title ofAttractive and Alluring Cheese (“cheese” entering the lexicon for “profit,” while “moving cheese” signified change).