A classic Chinese novel, also known as Outlaws of the Water Margin and By the Water Margin. In Chinese, it is titled Shui Hu Zhuan (literally Marsh Chronicles).

Historians confirm the story has some basis in truth; some of the characters are real and some of the events happened. The rebellious acts struck a chord in the oppressed population and evolved into folk tales. After many embellishments and dramatisations, two men, Shi Nai'in and Luo Guanzhong, took the material to create the novel. Since this novel was published in the fourteenth century, various editions existed, ranging frm 70 to 124 chapters, depending on the political temperament at the time.

The story is of over 100 men and women who band together to fight the corrupt government officials during the reign of Hui Zong, a Song Dynasty emperor who reigned from 1101 to 1125. Due to various circumstances, one by one they are compelled to take refuge in a fortress on Mount Liangshan in Shangdong, which was then surrounded by a marsh. The shorter versions of the novel end with the rebels still hunted; the longer version has the rebels capitulating to the government and even hunting down other rebels.

There are 108 chieftains, each with distinct personalities, abilities, and weapons. Some are admirable and lovable, while others are infuriating, but they all have a sense of justice and honor that binds them. A theme in the early part of the novel is "all men are brothers," and this shows when a stranger's favors are repaid in a great time of need. As the core of bandits grows larger, a greater binding force is required, and the theme becomes "act on heaven's behalf."

This theme is promulgated by Song Jiang, the de facto leader after the passing of Chao Gai. Song Jiang is a somewhat strange character as he seeks capitulation. Whoever wrote this part of the novel seems to have thought rebellion is condonable as long as the rebels ultimately surrender and serve the government. It is also curious how Chao Gai, who did not seek surrender during his leadership, is not considered one of the outlaws under the amnesty, although his actions were as gallant and chivalrous as Song Jiang.

In any event, it is an excellent book. Although it is a large volume (the copy I have is in three volumes totalling 1605 pages), the story is exciting and moves fast. The characters are compelling and I guarantee you will have favorites. Read Dman's take on it for another view.

The 108 chieftains, with their nicknames and honorifics, in alphabetical order (transliterations of names taken from the Sidney Shapiro translation):

An Taoquan (the Magic Doctor)
*Bai Sheng (the Daylight Rat)
Bao Xu (the God of Death)
Cai Fu (Iron-Armed)
Cai Qing (Single Blossom)
Cao Zheng (the Demon Carver)
Chai Jin (Little Whirlwind)
Chen Da (Gorge-Leaping Tiger)
*Dai Zong (the Marvellous Traveller, Flying Priest)
Deng Fei (the Red-Eyed Lion)
Ding Desun (Arrow-Struck Tiger)
Dong Ping (General Two Spears)
Du Qian (Skyscraper)
Du Xing (Devil-Faced Man)
Duan Jingzhu (Golden Dog)
Fan Rui (the Demon King Who Roils the World)
Gong Wang (Flower-Necked Tiger)
Gongsun Sheng (Dragon in the Clouds)
Guan Sheng (the Big Halberd)
Guo Sheng (the Second Rengui)
Han Tao (Hundred Victor General)
Hao Siwen (Wild Dog)
Hou Jian (Long-Armed Ape)
*Hu Sang Niang (Ten Feet of Steel)
Hua Rong (the General with Miraculous Arms, Little Li Kuan)
Huang Xin (Conquerer of the Three Mountains)
Huangpu Duan (the Purple Beard)
Huyan Zhuo (Two Rods)
Jiang Jing (Magic Calculator)
Jiao Ting (the Merciless)
Jin Dajian (Jade-Armed Craftman)
Kong Liang (the Flaming Star)
Kong Ming (the Comet)
Lei Heng (Flying Tiger)
Li Gun (Flying Monkey, Heavenly Flying God)
Li Jun (Turbulent River Dragon)
*Li Kui (Black Whirlwind)
Li Li (Hell's Summoner)
Li Ying (Heaven Soaring Eagle)
Li Yun (Black-Eyed Tiger)
Li Zhong (Tiger-Fighting General)
Lin Chong (Arms Instructor, Panther Head)
Ling Zhen (the Heaven-Shaking Thunder)
Liu Tang (the Red-Haired Demon)
Lu Fang (Little Duke of Wen)
Lu Junyi (Lu the Magnate, Jade Unicorn of Hebei)
Ma Ling (the Iron Flute Elf)
Meng Kang (Jade Flagpole)
Mistress Gu (the Tigress)
Mu Hong (the Unrestrained)
Ou Peng (Eagle in the Clouds)
Pei Xuan (Ironclad Virtue)
Peng Qi (Eyes of Heaven General)
Qin Ming (Thunderbolt)
Ruan the Fifth (Earthly Star God, the Rash)
Ruan the Second (Ferocious Giant, God of Swift Death)
Ruan the Seventh (Devil Incarnate)
Sagacious Lu (Major Lu Da, the Tattooed Monk)
Shan Tinggui (Water General)
Shi En (Golden-Eyed Tiger Cub)
Shi Jin (Nine Dragons)
Shi Qian (Flea on a Drum)
Shi Xiu (the Rash)
Shi Yong (Stone-Face General)
Song Jiang (the Timely Rain, Defender of Chivalry)
Song Qing (Iron Fan)
Song Wan (Guardian of the Clouds)
Sun Li (the Sick General)
Sun the Witch
Sun Xin (the Junior General)
Suo Chao (Urgent Vanguard)
Tang Long (Gold-Spotted Leopard)
Tao Zongwang (Nine-Tailed Tortoise)
Tong Meng (the River-Churning Clam)
Tong Wei (Cave Crocodile)
Wang Dingliu (Lightning)
Wang Ying (Stumpy Tiger)
Wei Dingguo (Fire General)
Wu Song (Constable, Pilgrim)
Wu Yong (the Wizard)
Xiang Chong (Eight-Armed Nehza)
Xiao Rang (the Master Hand)
Xie Bao (Two-Tailed Scorpion)
Xie Zhen (Two-Headed Snake)
Xu Ning (the Metal Lancer)
Xuan Zan (the Ugly Son-in-Law)
Xue Yong (the Sick Tiger)
Yan Shun (Elegant Tiger)
Yang Chun (White-Spotted Snake)
Yang Lin (Elegant Panther)
Yang Qin (the Prodigy)
Yang Sun Li
Yang Xiong (the Pallid, the Sick)
Yang Zhi (the Blue-Faced Beast)
Yu Baosi (Vanguard God)
Yue Ho (Iron Throat)
Zhang Heng (the Boatflame)
Zhang Qin (the Featherless Arrow)
Zhang Qing (the Vegetable Gardener)
Zhang Shun (White Streak in the Waves)
Zhao Gai (the Tower Lifter)
Zheng Tianshou (Fair-Faced Gentleman)
Zhou Tong (the Little King)
Zhu Fu (Laughing Tiger)
Zhu Gui (the Dry-Land Crocodile)
Zhu Tong (the Beautiful Beard)
Zhu Wu (Miraculous Strategist)
Zou Yuan (Forest Dragon, One-Horned Dragon)

* Asterisks denote a writeup exists. I created writeups for what I believe are pivotal characters. If you write one, msg me and I'll mark it off the list.

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