People in Chengdu, an old saying goes, don’t know the meaning of the word hurry. No matter how dire the situation, they never lose their calm. Maybe it’s the constant humidity of the Sichuan Basin that keeps them so unruffled, or maybe it’s the fragrant Sichuan rice they eat every night, its delicate sweetness seeping into their pores.
A Celebration of Life in Chengdu
“In the Chengdu dialect, kuoyi signifies an attitude of contentment. It’s about taking things as they come. It’s a laid-back lifestyle—a simple, everyday happiness. That’s why we decided to use it for the name of our magazine,” says Zhang Jianlan, the co-founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Kuoyi.
If you whisper the word kuoyi, you can almost feel your entire body loosening up. That’s the feeling Zhang Jianlan and her co-founder Xue Rong want to bring readers. It’s an experience that extends beyond the articles themselves.
There’s value in seeking excellence in something you love, as Zhang and Xue show. With calm and perseverance, they’ve done something other people might consider crazy: they’ve started an independent magazine about the city they live in and love. They stroll down the city’s avenues and alleyways to find the most kuoyi treasures, and they’ve put that attitude of contentment and generosity between two covers.
在成都话里，“可以” 这个词语被寄托了一种知足常乐的心态，是随遇而安的心境，是舒适悠闲的生活，是简单平常的快乐。所以我们的书取名为《可以 KUOYI》。——《可以》创始人、出品人、主编：张简蓝
“把自己热爱的事情做到极致便有了它的价值。” 这句话是这两个女生最佳的佐证。她们平静而坚定地去做了一件别人看来也许很疯狂的事——自己办了一本独立杂志，主题即是她们生活并且热爱的家乡成都。她们走过成都大街小巷，发掘出其中最 “可以” 的人事物，每一个文字、每一张照片都透露出这座城独有的知足与豁达。
Kuoyi is a magazine for ordinary people, without pretentious words or a flashy layout. Zhang and Xue decided that a minimal, no-frills approach would be the most honest way to tell the stories of ordinary people. “We wanted it to be down-to-earth, real, and inspirational,” Zhang says. It’s a magazine for office workers stuck in the nine-to-five rat race, for dreamers reluctant to take the leap of faith, for travelers in search of undiscovered sights, for everyone interested in experiencing the kuoyi attitude and lifestyle.
《可以》是一本属于百姓的书，没有太多浮华的辞藻，也没有复杂的排版，她们选择了一种最简单淳朴的表达方式，去真实述说 “老百姓” 的生活。“它是接地气的、真诚的、励志的。” 具像而言，是为了那些朝九晚五的人能接触到工作之外的生活，原来还 “可以” 这样；让还在犹豫是否要去追求梦想的人，增添一丝 “可以” 的勇气；让喜欢旅游的人，寻找到另一条 “可以” 的旅行路线；让更多人体会到这样 “可以” 的生活方式和态度。
Faith in the Printed Word
Faith can make people throw caution to the wind. It all began in 2013, when Zhang quit a comfortable office job in Beijing to return to her hometown of Chengdu, a move that required no small dose of courage. Her motivation was simple: to create an independent magazine celebrating local Chengdu culture.
Asked about the inspiration for the magazine’s title, Zhang tells a story: she and her friends were out one day, crossing the street while discussing where they should go to eat. She suggested they get congee. One of her friends responded, “kuoyi, kuoyi“—roughly,”sounds good, sounds good.” An idea flashed in Zhang’s mind: they’d call the magazine they were about to launch Kuoyi. The friend who had said those words was none other than Xue, the magazine’s co-founder.
In March 2014, they started to prepare their inaugural issue. At first, they lacked both resources and content—all they had was a simple concept and their own dedication. Eventually, through friends, they met some like-minded people and gathered together a group of young people who not only became good collaborators but had also a knack for discovering the stories that every good issue needs. In Zhang’s view, a good issue requires good people and good stories. “Looking back to how we got started, it was all really very simple.”
说起这本杂志的诞生，据说还有这样一个小故事：有一次和朋友在聚餐的路上，大家一边过马路一边讨论着待会要去吃哪家餐馆。张简蓝随口问了一句 “要不喝粥？”，一个朋友回答道 “可以可以”。 于是一个想法突然就冒了出来，她们决定将这本即将诞生的杂志就取名为《可以》。而那位回答 “可以可以” 的朋友，就是和张简蓝一起创办这本杂志的薛蓉。
A Story of Perseverance
Listening to how Kuoyi came to be, I noticed a common theme of perseverance. A perseverance for creating print, a perseverance for providing a suitable reading experience, and a perseverance for promoting the stories and culture of Sichuan and Chengdu.
In magazine publishing, there are no shortcuts. What does it really take to put out an issue? When they started out, Zhang and Xue had no idea. In the early days, when they operated with limited funds, the two oversaw and handled everything themselves, from picking the topics, to writing the articles, to designing the layout, to printing and binding the copies. The inaugural issue came about thanks to their enormous perseverance.
But then they faced new challenges: How do you distribute to bookstores around the country? Outside of Sichuan, the first store they set their sights on was Beijing’s Fashion Lounge Bookstore. Over and over they contacted the store, and each time they were rejected. But they never gave up, and eventually they won the owners over. With that same kuoyi perseverance, they went on to secure shelf space in stores across China, from Chengdu’s Fangsuo, to Hangzhou’s Fenglin Books, to Xiamen’s Bu Zai Bookstore.
它关于一种叫做 “可以” 的坚持
可是又该如何让杂志推向全国书店？省外的第一个目标锁定在北京的时尚廊书店，天知道她们尝试了多少种方法和书店沟通，一次又一次的拒绝并没有让她们放弃，最后时尚廊终于被她们打动。接下来她们持续用独特的 “可以” 式坚持，将杂志成功推广到成都的方所、杭州的枫林晚书店、厦门的不在书店等城市文化地标。
How can print publications adapt to new reading habits? “We hope our future formats will change by paying close attention to how people’s lifestyles are changing. People don’t necessarily create to survive. Sometimes they create to live a better life,” Zhang says.
That’s the thinking behind Kuoyi‘s fifth issue, “Zazhi,” a pun on the word for magazine that might literally be translated as “snippets” or “paper scraps.” Each story in the issue is printed on a single piece of paper, in five different classic formats, sizes, and folds. The issue is split into snippets that can be read in either one minute, five minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes, or 40 minutes. Readers can choose what they’re interested in, making reading a way to fill their idle moments. Kuoyi is constantly experimenting and innovating to adapt to modern reading habits.
而怎么样的纸质阅读方式，才最适合当下及未来人的阅读习惯？ “我们希望未来的阅读方式，是亲切地考虑到人的生活习惯的变化而改变。人类创造事物不一定是为了生存而造，有时候是为了更好的生活。” 张简蓝说道。
于是有了《可以5:杂纸》（piece）。这本 “杂纸” 的形式很特别，只用 “一张纸” 就承载所有内容，而每一个内容都单独成页。共设计五种开本大小，分别适合长短不一的碎片化阅读时间。读者可以在细碎的生活片刻里，轻松的选择自己想看的内容，让阅读变成一种填补空闲的习以为常。寻找到最适合现代人的阅读方式，是《可以》坚持创新探讨和突破的原因。
After five issues documenting the different facets of Chengdu, some readers might wonder if Kuoyi will run out of material. “I’ve lived in Chengdu for almost 30 years, and I still don’t know enough about it,” Zhang answers.
Her dedication to preserving and promoting traditional Sichuanese culture is admirable. “Young people today are into Western music, or music from Hong Kong and Taiwan—pop, rock, jazz, folk, and more recently hip-hop. How many of them know about Sichuan opera? Qing yin? Jin qian ban? Or other forms of Sichuanese folk music? ” she asks. “We want to tell the stories of older artists and younger artists, to help more people discover them. The Yuelai Teahouse puts on authentic Sichuan opera performances, and the few times we’ve gone there for interviews, the audience was made up entirely of old folks and foreigners. So we made a silent vow that we’d devote ourselves to celebrating Sichuanese culture. We want younger people to visit the tea house, to have more people fall in love with Sichuan Opera and other folk performances. That’s the essence of what we want to accomplish.”
至今，《可以》已经出到第五期，读者心中难免会猜想，记录了那么多面向的成都，会不会最后这座城都被 “挖空” 了呢? “我生活在成都快30年了，但我还是不够了解它。” 这是张简蓝给我们的答案。
而更令人敬佩的是她专注于保存传统，坚持推广 “川文化” 的心意。“当下的年轻人都在追逐欧美、港台、流行乐、摇滚、爵士、民谣或最近火爆的嘻哈，有多少人知道川剧、清音、金钱板等都是四川曲艺的代表呢? 我们希望通过真实的描述还坚守在曲艺岗位的老艺术家和年轻艺术家的背后故事，让更多人了解他们。在成都的悦来茶楼可以看到正宗的川剧表演，我们几次去做采访看到观众席中几乎全是老人和外国人，我们也默默地对自己说，我们一定要坚持推广川文化，有一天悦来茶楼里会坐有更多年轻人。让更多人尊重和喜欢上川剧和其他曲艺表演，这就是我们想做的。”
“All I know is, I want to keep going,” Zhang smiles.
Anyone dedicated to print media deserves admiration. Infotainment and listicles and have diluted the value of reading itself, and more and more people are abandoning print for the convenience and affordability of digital. Yet even today independent publications like Kuoyi continue to pop up, with independent editors like Zhang and Xue supporting them.
No matter your age, gender, or location, if you appreciate the world around us, then Kuoyi might be the magazine for you.
Issue 5 of Kuoyi is now available on the Neocha Shop.
如果你是个热爱生活的人，不限地域、年龄、性别，我们都希望你能感受到这一座 “可以” 的城市，和这一本 “可以” 的独立杂志。
Additional Recommendations from Kuoyi’s Editor-in-Chief
I’d like to recommend some great independent Chinese magazines, such as Gou Yong Jiu Hao (“Good Enough”), Salt, Though, Solo, Fish, Ben Di (“Local”), San (“Three”), publications by DreamCo, releases from One Villain and 49 Horses, and so on. Why? Guess you’ll have to buy one and find out.