Maybe it all started here, in these pages of a children’s book. I remember reading the story of a Chinese monk who had run-ins with the White Bone Demon on his journey to the West and was saved by Monkey. Recently, I found a few pages of that old book  in a box of papers. The cover had vanished and I haven’t been able to dig up a citation. 

Maybe the seeds were planted when, as a teenager, I stopped in Hong Kong during a family trip. I remember looking across the harbour at the Nine Dragon hills of Kowloon and thinking, awestruck, that beyond those hills lay Mainland China. Later, in college, I majored in Chinese studies and soon, I was up to my neck in China. The idea to follow Xuanzang’s route dropped into my head in the summer of 1999. Such a journey, I saw, would be a way for me to link my China obsession with my Indian heritage.