Media and Advertising

Life is big

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生活 or Life aka City Magazine

It is rare to see an original new magazine in China: most of the glossies are either licensed editions of foreign magazines or thoroughly derivative in content and design. Newspapers have the same problem.

Life Week and China News Week look like the American Newsweek, Read looks a Chinese version of The New Yorker, China Business News copied the Wall Street Journal's colors, layout and style of illustration, The Economic Observer copied the Financial Times' famous pink paper and section divisions, et cetera et cetera.

So it is a joy to find a new Chinese magazine that is original, both in terms of design and content: Modern Media's City Magazine (生活). The first issue just hit the bookstores and magazine stands in airports and hotels: it will not be sold in regular magazine stands on the streets.

Weighing in at about 2 kilograms, the large format magazine is as big as a coffee table book and looks a little like one, with clean design, full page photographs, and articles laid out for serious reading at a table rather than browsing in a taxi or in the dentist's waiting room.

The first issue contains articles about Kazakh shepherds in Xinjiang, Danish design, the British artist Giles Dawe, meditation retreats in Kathmandu, urban life, a photographic fashion spread, growing up in Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s, silver craftsmanship and a range of other cultural and lifestyle subjects.

The magazine has a music director -- Tan Dun, China's most famous contemporary composer -- and the first issue contains a CD of his work. There is also a director of visual arts -- Xu Bing, the New York resident recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award. The calligraphy on the front cover is by Xu Bing: it's a fake Chinese character composed of the letters that make up the English word 'aspiration'.

City Magazine bears the same English name as the Hong Kong glossy 号外, which was recently acquired by Modern Media, but although the size of the magazine is similar, the contents are completely different.

It retails for 50 yuan. According to Danwei sources, the print run of the first issue is 100,000. It will be interesting to see how it sells.

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