As protests swirl in the cities and all foreign faces arouse suspicions, venturesome young Japanese student Aya Goda travels deep into the interior of China.
There she falls in love with the charismatic and combative wandering painter Cao, whose work is initially tolerated by the Chinese authorities and then banned, suddenly flipping the couple over onto the wrong side of the law. With the police on their tails, the pair criss-cross the vastnesses of middle China and push up into Tibet, where Cao has been trained as a sky-burial master. By truck and by jalopy, biplane and train, dodging bandits and bureaucrats alike, the pair take a high-speed, high-risk journey through this fast-changing country.
Like some East Asian Cassady and Kerouac, Cao and Goda are wild kindred spirits in search of enlightenment and freedom, and Goda's prose—clear and metallic as a Himalayan stream—permits the reader to share their every intrepid step and twist and to taste the tangily different flavors of contemporary China.