Novel writings in China in 2023 display a tendency toward locality which exhibits two characteristics: One is the “sense of hometown,” and the other is the “integration of locality with modernity.” Qiao Ye’s novel Baoshui Village is a representative work that achieves “modernity” through “locality.” How contemporary novels portray the changing countryside, and how they handle and grasp the relationship and proportion between change and constancy; how to find the right way to integrate the geographical, ethnic, and modern aspects of a novel; how locality generates modernity; and how modernity can accommodate and activate locality are not only theoretical questions that need to be deeply explored but also issues of writing that need continuous exploration in practice. In this sense, Baoshui Village is worth cherishing.
In her novel Baoshui Village, Qiao Ye narrates from a keen female perspective about the awakening and transformation of contemporary rural women, portraying the great changes in rural China in the new era. The “Baoshui Village” in the novel is not only a rural space as the object of writing, but also provides a significant background against which the great changes in rural China are depicted. It also serves as an important means to advance the plot of the novel and provides a way to organize the time of the novel. In the novel, Qiao Ye connects the village and the world outside the village from the dual perspectives of the heroine Di Qingping, to create a new relationship between people and countryside, and between rural areas and cities from a perspective of totality to paint a new picture of rural China.
As one of the representative Chinese writers who was born in the 1970s, Qiao Ye’s writing exhibits considerable diversity and varied understandings of literature across genres. In her full-length novels, Qiao Ye is exceptionally innovative and exploratory, and each novel is distinct in subject matter and style. However, her medium-length and short stories tend to be more conservative, characterized by a simple and natural style, imbued with the charm of literary tradition. This artistic stance in writing style is different from other writers and unique to Qiao Ye, which is not only indicative of her vivid artistic individuality but also holds value for further research into creative writing and stylistics.
Qiao Ye's literary creations are inextricably linked with Chinese literary tradition. In her novels, she transforms many traditional techniques found in traditional Chinese literature in a creative manner, and has gradually crafted her unique writing form of “new novel of society” in her two-decade writing career. Qiao Ye’s unique artistic exploration not only enables the stories in her works to reflect the social conditions, and human nature and human relationships in contemporary Chinese society, but also presents a new, more casual format that uses hybrid discourse and intersections of identity in its literary narrative, thus forming Qiao Ye’s personalized artistic style of analytic/reflective narrative. This should be regarded as Qiao Ye’s creative transformation to the traditional discourse found in Chinese story-telling novels or pan-story-telling novels.
Baoshui Village, a full-length novel by Qiao Ye, presents to its readers an open, sensitive, holistic, and reflective experiential texture thanks to the writer’s years of preparation spent “going into” and “immersing herself in villages,” as well as her rural narrative focusing on the complexity, contemporaneity, and problem of rural revitalization. The novel employs dual-narrative technique of recounting emotional and village history to advance its plot, paints pictures of village life with polyphonous scenes of village gossip, and engages in participatory observation through the use of the narrator to construct an open subject consciousness that discovers blind spots, surprises, disparities, and paradoxes in the rural experience. By selectively reconstructing the experiences of three archetypal villages and creating the new literary image of a “rural construction expert,” the novel conveys a realistic attitude that values the subjectivity and endogenous power of the countryside. In doing so, this method takes the structure of reality as its core and calls for a pragmatic standpoint that suspends any judgment, so as to “read” the Chinese countryside through the texture of reality.