The Walking Boy
The Walking Boy is a quest novel set in early eighth-century Tang Dynasty China, in the final days of the rule of the first Female Emperor Wu Zhao. The ailing hermit monk Harelip sends his disciple Baoshi on a pilgrimage from Mount Hua to Chang'an, the Western capital; Baoshi is the "walking boy" charged with locating Harelip's missing former lover Ardhanari. Baoshi lives with a secret only his Master knows, and he is filled with fears of being discovered. On his journey, Baoshi crosses paths with both commoners and imperial officials, as well as others who take delight in their queer identities; in doing so, he is released powerfully from his past shame.
The Walking Boy, set in the years following Kwa's recent novel Oracle Bone, is a book of quiet subversion, upending classical Chinese tropes with contemporary ideas around gender and feminism. Filled with psychological complexities, magic and poetic allusions to classical Chinese literature, The Walking Boy explores the intrigue of inner alchemy while exorcising the ghosts of history.