Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie (translated by Ina Rilke). Review in August 7, 2005 NY Times Review of Books (by Christopher Atamian).
The translation is from French (?).
Muo is trying to secure the release of his first love, who is a political prisoner, by finding a nubile young virgin as a bribe. In the current world of modernization in China, these are hard to find. “As Muo’s travels proceed, China itself becomes a character: at times stunning in its lust for development, at others almost medieval in its cruelty and backwardness.”
Sijie also wrote Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.