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Outlaws of the Marsh, a k a The Water Margin and other titles, is an epic Chinese novel about rebels, resistance, war, and friendship It concerns 108 people who, for various reasons, defy local authorities and join a bandit force hiding out on a marsh surrounded mountain.The first three of four volumes describe how and why these rebels come to Mount Lianshan These books also detail how local, then regional, then imperial forces attack the outlaws, and how the outlaws cleverly defend themselves Outlaws of the Marsh, a k a The Water Margin and other titles, is an epic Chinese novel about rebels, resistance, war, and friendship It concerns 108 people who, for various reasons, defy local authorities and join a bandit force hiding out on a marsh surrounded mountain.The first three of four volumes describe how and why these rebels come to Mount Lianshan These books also detail how local, then regional, then imperial forces attack the outlaws, and how the outlaws cleverly defend themselves By the fourth book the emperor grants the bandits an amnesty, then sends them on grueling military campaigns against enemies foreign and domestic.I came to Outlaws of the Marsh with some knowledge of Chinese literature and history , if not the language, and found the book delightful and ultimately moving At times it challenges readers with repetition and too many names It s hard to keep track of so many chieftains and generals, and the middle campaigns become somewhat repetitious But the novel uses copia for good purposes It teaches as a great deal about tactics, strategy, management, and infighting, using many examples and situations And while the total amount of Lianshan chieftains is hard to keep track of, especially in their tactical dispositions, that number gives us a rich and realistic sense of the scale of events Ultimately, too, the swarm of bandits becomes emotionally charged, as view spoiler so many die The campaign against Fang La takes a horrible toll, and the postbellum fates of many are bittersweet or tragic hide spoiler Some characters stand out Song Jiang The Timely Rain emerges as the bandits leader, and is very different from them He rarely fights, but organizes and strategizes He becomes a tragic character given his abilities, humility, and deep empathy with the other bandits Li Kui The Black Whirlwind is a manic murderer, comically quick to anger and kill someone, always ready to flip out and go berserk Others are memorable due to persistent nicknames and repeated actions, like Bao Xu the God of Death, Cut Your Heart Out Wang, Lin Chong Panther Head, the Blue Faced Demon, Ugly Son in Law, Oily Mudfish Sun the Fifth , or Kick a Sheep to Death There s Mu Hong the Unrestrained and his younger brother Mu Chung the Slightly Restrained 770.It s not a book focused on inner states, although it does a good job of tracking the bandits main leader and his shifting moods Instead Outlaws focuses on actions as expressions of thought and feeling Indeed, the book is wildly action oriented Just about every chapter features battles, kidnapping, assassination, murders for revenge, torture, unlikely escapes, and nearly continuous single combat This helps explain the novel s popularity A fellow air traveler saw me reading one volume, recognized the book, and said that his martial arts instructor recommended it to his class I can see why The violence level can be daunting, in fact, nearly reaching the level of horror While there are a great many encounters without either explicit or implicit carnage, we do read of some very gory events Cannibalism appears during the middle volumes, such as with an anthropophagic innkeeper and wife who ultimately work for the heroes Even Li Kui helps himself to freshly killed human when peckish 903 One misbehaving character gets cut into, disemboweled, and her guts hung from a tree 980 A sympathetic character and eventual leader deals with problem people like so Lu carved out their hearts, cut off their limbs, and cast their bodies on the ground 1420 An unnamed character dies from horror at her husband s ugliness 1353 Prisoners are routinely killed The bandits aren t above using blackmail and murder to nudge people into joining them they may be heroes, but are certainly medieval They do tend to avoid wanton slaughter, frequently issuing don t kill everyone notices after taking a town Revenge motivates the rebels, and others, to gory acts Song Jiang sent defeated general Zhang Jian to the Governor in Suzhou to be executed and his head hung up on display Defeated general Zhange Tao was disemboweled in front of the camp and his heart raised towards Heaven in a sacrifice to several dead fellow heroes 2009 Cai Qing cut out Du Wei s heart and offered it, dripping blood, in sacrifice to the chieftains who died in the Clear Stream battle Song Jiang officiated personally at the ceremony 2087 view spoiler Fang La was sliced to bits and beheaded in a public square of the Eastern Capital, and the remains placed on display for three days 2113 hide spoiler I placed Outlaws on my anarchism shelf, and think we should consider this an anarchist classic Obviously a book with outlaws as its main characters should incline us towards that assessment, but it s really quite a programmatic part of the novel Governments are generally bad things, showing themselves to be evil and or dangerously incompetent throughout The rebels almost universally have excellent cause to exit the rule of law, as their rulers are usually despicable The few good officials we see the emperor, one of his generals either go over to the rebels fairly quickly, or, remaining in government, see themselves outflanked by the typical, vile functionaries In contrast, Mount Lianshan is supercharged with good stuff It s where individual outlaws find fellowship and support Each character rises in personal development, becomingeffective and satisfied in life This anarchist mob is clever, learning new tactics and technologies, always smarter andresourceful than the governments contending with it When the bandits finally go over to the government, the results are mixed They continue to be resourceful and energetic, winning battles against enormous odds, and succeeding where governments failed And at every step forces in government suborn them The final campaign against a rebel suggests the anarchists have wholly changed sides, but the picture isironic than that The rebel king is an authoritarian, despoiling the people among whom he based his movement, rather than working with them Worse yet, view spoiler the campaign kills the majority of our bandit heroes Victory in it turns to ashes when bad ministers trick the emperor into assassinating two of its surviving heroes, and forces Song Jiang to kill one of his best friends when the emperor figures out what s gone wrong, he doesn t do anything to punish these clearly malign ministers State evil just goes on Giving up anarchy for government work is a tragic and foul step in this novel hide spoiler The last page focuses on the people, seeing them as a repository for goodness and hope We see a glimpse of an alternate path when some new characters refuse the offer of government rank If we wanted positions, we could have become commanders under Fang La long ago But we seek only a free like, not rank We ll go through fire and water if you need our help But if you want to make us officials, we re not interested 1967 I also added this to my fantasy shelf because of the novel s steady reliance on the supernatural Magicians join some armies to conjure up demons, weather, fogs, and distractions Several characters have supernatural abilities, like a man with the power to walk very fast like the American legend of Ten League Boots Ghosts appear and have real effects, even possessing the bodies of living people Various supernatural being intervene, often to help the bandits numinous support for anarchism, I say Indeed, all of the 108 rebel heroes are actually heavenly spirits and earthly fiends also stars of destiny accidentally set free by a bumbling marshal during the novel s first chapter, who terrorizes some monks then lies about it Their opponents can be magically fierce Bao Daoyi studied the unorthodox school of Taoism and used his magic to harm others He had a precious sword called the Occult Universe which would fly a hundred paces and kill a man 2050 In short, I recommend this to most readers You ll need some patience or stamina during the first two volumes as the novel gradually assembles the bandit force You might want to explore Chinese history and culture to better understand some details of formal speech, food, government, and daily life You may also decide to take up martial arts, or open a friendly inn I had read two different versions of comic based on Outlaws of the Marsh, all I can say is that the stories of the Outlaws are filled with actions and excitement It s an engaging read although the author seems to hate beautiful, slutty women a great deal and think all of them deserve to die.So maybe one day I should read the original textmaybe one day I have long wanted to reread this established classic The most complete edition I could find in print was the Chinese Classics 4 volume Edition from Foreign Language Press, weighing in at a slim 2,149 pages Nonetheless, I would call this an un put downable page turner One of the original Proto Wuxia novels from Ancient China, which was rich in both history and literary mystique.Far superior, in my opinion to the other lengthy Great Works of Classical Chinese, namely The Story of the Stone I have long wanted to reread this established classic The most complete edition I could find in print was the Chinese Classics 4 volume Edition from Foreign Language Press, weighing in at a slim 2,149 pages Nonetheless, I would call this an un put downable page turner One of the original Proto Wuxia novels from Ancient China, which was rich in both history and literary mystique.Far superior, in my opinion to the other lengthy Great Works of Classical Chinese, namely The Story of the Stone Dream of the Red Chamber , Golden Lotus, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and The Journey to the West, although everyone seems to have their personal favorite The mixture of historical narratives with myths and legends is a phenomenon seen the world over, but hardly ever do we find a personal and epic masterpiece to rival this one Sure, you can find any number of recountings of legends and mysteries, ghost stories and battles throughout Asian and European literature, but not until you fast forward to Lord of the Rings, will you find such a magical, and intimate journey of struggles, and tales within tales, and influential themes, seamlessly woven throughout the breathless adventure.I imagine listening to these tales in their original language on a street corner, in the fourteenth century, as people once might have listened to Homer and Virgil recite their own vast creations, and the long lost world comesalive Within a modest 100 chapters, averaging 20 pages in length, with constant cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, you follow the story of heroes and villains, conquerors and families, and brothers in arms and murderers, for lack of a better term The violence and torture is often cruel and brutal, but I assume, perfectly accurate for the time it depicted 12th century The purported author Shi Nai an with a credit to the master Luo Guanzhong was telling these tales at a remove of a few centuries, while at the same time clearly passing comment on his own corrupt and traditional society s.The richness of invention and superb and often humorous character detail is priceless beyond words, and I was enraptured throughout the entire book, which took me only 2 weeks to read Granted, the print is not as small as some paperbacks and the pages almost turn themselves during many of the riveting chapters The fact that I am seriously considering rereading it after a few years, and remember many of the events it describes except for the impossible to remember for a Westerner names is an indication of its staying power Not to mention that the approach and conflicts have been reworked into literature, Chinese and otherwise, countless times We got a Christianized translation from Peal S Buck, at least one manga anime based on it, and arguably, several scenes themes from the films of Akira Kurosawa.Also translated as Water Margin, with some translations available online, I would recommend buying this 4 volume edition before it disappears completely You cannot seriously read Chinese literature without running into references to this epic It would be like diving into Italian literature and trying to avoid Dante and Boccaccio Put down Game of Thrones and pick up this book which has endured for 7 centuries The Outlaws of the Marsh Shui Hu Zhuanis the third of the Six Classic Chinese novels I have read so far, and the earliest one it was written in the 14th century, but likeThe Scholarsand China s great classic novel Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the fourteenth century, is a fictional account of twelfth century events during the Song Dynasty One by one, over a hundred men and women are forced by the harsh feudal officialdom to take to the hills They band together and defeat every attempt of the government troops to crush them Within this framework we find intrigue, adventure, murder, warfare, romance in a connected series of fascinating individual tales, told in the suspenseful manner of the traditional storyteller There are Four Great Classical Chinese Novels Why don t I know anything about anything Okayyes, and they are this one Romance of the Three Kingdoms A staggering achievement, and a very odd book from cover to cover It s greatly cynical, and one can perhaps read it on an infinite number of different levels The book never makes its intent overt It can be read as a grand adventure story and a tale of loyalty, as I believe many young readers enjoy the book or retellings of some of the stories from within the book , but there is certainly an odd mix of sincerity and irony throughout Facts contradict statements, ethics and loyalties are ever A staggering achievement, and a very odd book from cover to cover It s greatly cynical, and one can perhaps read it on an infinite number of different levels The book never makes its intent overt It can be read as a grand adventure story and a tale of loyalty, as I believe many young readers enjoy the book or retellings of some of the stories from within the book , but there is certainly an odd mix of sincerity and irony throughout Facts contradict statements, ethics and loyalties are ever shifting, actions defy expectations, stated beliefs are routinely undermined The most overt paradox is that of the emperor himself, who is routinely praised throughout the book only once that I remember was an honest criticism of him spoken yet he never seems to deserve the praise, and it is hinted that he is complicit in some of the most wicked betrayals even while the author and the characters who suffer injustice never dare claim that the emperor was wrong in anything.But, as I say, that s only one overt example We are constantly forced to evaluate, and reevaluate, and re reevaluate all 108 of the major heroes, the countless villains, and the various actors big and small who occupy an ever shifting moral terrain defined mainly by violence and corruption There are some heart breaking moments, and I d say there are an infinite number of challenges to the thoughtful reader.Among other themes, I perceive the structure as a sort of massive game of repetition with variation, the permutations of hundreds of figures revisiting familiar situations, yet reaching surprising outcomes Every time the book threatens to get tedious, it throws something odd and unexpected at us, and then when it seems chaotic, anarchic, absurd, it surprises us again by settling into an even, regular flow.There are different phases of the book, so there s certainly narrative progress, it s just not a clear, straight forward progress, but rather a meandering, winding flow Only when you ve completed reading the text and can see the overarching structure does it seem straightforward, but when you get close to it and you re immersed in the details it s quite complex and even ornate And so much of what is great about this book is in the details, not the grand scheme.I ve said elsewhere that I perceived a sort of taoist subtext in the early phase of the book, which deals withof the individual stories Here we see an acting out of what the Tao Te Ching describes as the progress from benevolence, through several intermediary stages, to corruption quite an ironic and puzzling concept that what we usually regard as a positive quality benevolence could be the first step towards corruption But it seems quite clear as we see it played out by human actors within the corrupt world I particularly felt that the story of Panther Head Lin Chong illustrated this progress well.I could probably ramble forever, but that s all I ve got to say for now Happy reading Volume 1 pp 1 538Volume 2 pp 539 1072Volume 3 pp 1073 1603Volume 4 pp 1604 2149This book is a tremendous saga of outlaws that are loyal to the emperor and seek an amnesty The book is considered a classic in Chinese literature Written in the thirteenth century roughly, the story tells of a group of outlaws that despise corrupt officials and feel they have blinded the emperor to whom they are loyal It would be too simple to compare this story with Robin Hood Set in the twelfth century Volume 1 pp 1 538Volume 2 pp 539 1072Volume 3 pp 1073 1603Volume 4 pp 1604 2149This book is a tremendous saga of outlaws that are loyal to the emperor and seek an amnesty The book is considered a classic in Chinese literature Written in the thirteenth century roughly, the story tells of a group of outlaws that despise corrupt officials and feel they have blinded the emperor to whom they are loyal It would be too simple to compare this story with Robin Hood Set in the twelfth century Northern Song Dynasty and based on actual people and events, the first two volumes document various conditions under which individuals commit crimes and are forced to become outlaws The stories at first seem unconnected aside being linked by common characters The sheer number of characters introduced begins to be discouraging However, towards the end of the second volume many of the characters have come together to the same place and formed a huge group of outlaws The third volume documents the addition ofoutlaws and subsequent attempts from the capital to destroy the band of outlaws Also, the outlaws are anxious for an amnesty and seek to serve the emperor The fourth volume opens with their amnesty in the first few chapters Afterwards, in order to prove their loyalty, they lead a military campaign against northern invaders Afterwards, they are asked to put down a rebellion in the south During this massive campaign many of the characters are killed and leads up to the final chapters of the successful campaign and subsequent departure of the characters to their various ways This book is rich in Chinese culture and tradition A person familiar with Chinese culture will greatly appreciate the many customs presented and adhered to throughout the book Those who have studied Chinese language will recognize awkward English phrases that are direct translations of Chinese idioms throughout the book In any case, this book gives a rich depiction of ancient Chinese culture.As with many old classics, the book is written in a different style and readers should be open to the straight forward style this book is written in There is a lot of violence in the book Wars, fights, beheadings, etc were part of ancient cultures and should be looked upon as normal for that period of writing A long book, a great story, lots of characters that can be a challenge to keep track of, but a great read I was disappointed with this series After reading Three Kingdoms, I was excited to read, what some consider, the spiritual successor However, whatever Three Kingdoms did right, I got the feeling that this series dropped the ball.I never got the feeling thatthan 4 or 5 of the characters actually had any depth to them That is a problem when your story is suppose to be about every one of the 109 protagonists, not to mention the countless of antagonists Further, the author had a poor s I was disappointed with this series After reading Three Kingdoms, I was excited to read, what some consider, the spiritual successor However, whatever Three Kingdoms did right, I got the feeling that this series dropped the ball.I never got the feeling thatthan 4 or 5 of the characters actually had any depth to them That is a problem when your story is suppose to be about every one of the 109 protagonists, not to mention the countless of antagonists Further, the author had a poor sense of timing with killing characters, which gave me an impression that the author had no grasp of the flow of a novel While other series of fiction utilize the ebb and flow of dramatic tides, this one simply sputters along until you are sick of it and gives you a tsunami of a muddled together ending.Considering that this series is considered a must read in Chinese fiction, I am left assuming that part of the fault lies in the translation However, to be fair, no translator could fix the overall flow of the story.The one thing that I appreciated from the books was the sense of charity that was present among some of these men Although, blind charity would not always be a good thing, I believe that it is something important to read about If not for that aspect of the books, I would not have given it the few stars that I did Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the vernacular, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.It s set in the Song dynasty and tells of how a group outlaws gather at Liangshan Marsh to form an army before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces What s striking about the book and this particular translation is the sense of modernity You quickly get used to the the many names and feel a ce Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the vernacular, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.It s set in the Song dynasty and tells of how a group outlaws gather at Liangshan Marsh to form an army before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces What s striking about the book and this particular translation is the sense of modernity You quickly get used to the the many names and feel a certain, almost dungeons and dragons familiarity, with the visits to the pub, the licentious behaviour and the good and evil characters, It s robin hood without a christian element and at times shocks with its ready acceptance of brutal robbery, deceit and of all things, cannibalism It s an epic, full of humor, deep iconic characters and fun Love it All Men Are Brothers


About the Author: Shi Nai'an

Shi Nai an Chinese pinyin Sh N i n, ca 1296 1372 , was a Chinese writer from Suzhou He was attributed as the first compiler of the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Not much biographical information is known about him Traditionally it was believed that he was a teacher of Luo Guanzhong, who was attributed as a main compiler of Romance of Three Kingdoms, another of the Four Great Classical Novels Some modern scholars doubt that Shi actually existed, but was merely a pseudonym for Luo himself.


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