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Outlaws of the Marsh


4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,925 ratings  ·  168 reviews
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 f ...more
Paperback, 4-Volume Boxed Set, 2149 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Foreign Languages Press (first published 1370)
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Bryan Alexander
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
E. G.
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Introduction, by Shi Changyu
--Outlaws of the Marsh, Volume I

--Outlaws of the Marsh, Volume II

--Outlaws of the Marsh, Volume III

--Outlaws of the Marsh, Volume IV
Translator's Note
About the Translator
L.S. Popovich
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 (
The Outlaws of the Marsh (Shui Hu Zhuan) is 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 like The Scholars and The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei , it is set several centuries before that time, specifically in the 12th century during the Song dynasty – there does seem to be a distinct pattern here, with each of the three novels referring to their particular present only by way of writing about the ...more
Feb 09, 2014 marked it as to-read
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 text...maybe one day...
"The earliest components of the Water Margin (in manuscript copies) were from the late 14th century. The earliest extant complete printed edition of Water Margin is a 100-chapter book dating from the late-16th century in 1589.[15] Another edition, with 120 chapters by Yang Dingjian (楊定見), has been preserved from the reign of the Wanli Emperor (1573–1620) in the Ming dynasty. Yet other editions were published since this era to the earlyQing dynasty , including a 70-chapter edition by Jin Shengta ...more
Oct 27, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
There are Four Great Classical Chinese Novels? Why don't I know anything about anything?

Okay...yes, and they are: this one;
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- Monkey: The Journey to the West
and Dream of the Red Chamber

Obviously I'm going to have to read one per year starting next year. Awesome, man, awesome.

Also, I'm gonna want to return to Maija's shelves at some point to look more closely at her non-Western choices. She seems to have thought this out well.

Meghan says Shapiro is well-considered; D
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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- ...more
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Volume 1: pp. 1-538
Volume 2: pp. 539-1072
Volume 3: pp. 1073-1603
Volume 4: pp. 1604-2149

This 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
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 that more than 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. Furthermore, the author had a poor s
Craig Herbertson
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
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike any text I've read, except The Old Testament. It has the feel of ancient oral stories transcribed into a narrative written form. The story slowly unfolds, there are hundreds of characters and many of the main characters have two or three names. Somehow all characters are inter-twined and related through the telling of the tale. The grand theme is a slow rebellion by ordinary people in response and reaction to the increasingly self-important, over-wealthy, and isolated and dependent ruling ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a tough book to get through. I enjoyed the story, but was troubled by the cruelty displayed by the bandits of Liangshan Marsh. The cruelty wasn't the work of individuals overcome by passion, but that displayed by the leaders in their tactics to get people they wanted to join them.
Laszlo Hopp
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with plenty of time to read
The story, one of the four great Chinese classical novels, describes events from the 12th century Song Dynasty. The plot, written during the 16th century Ming Dynasty is fiction, though it is based on historical characters.

I would separate the book into two sections. Roughly the first half describes various criminals, evildoers, and misfits, all of whom tend to gravitate toward an outlaw post at Liangshan Marsh. These chapters are full of violent actions such as killing tigers, poisoning people,
This is an epic Chinese classic about a group of Outlaws who are disillusioned with the rampant corruption in government. They have all experienced incredible injustice and gather one at a time to live a life as an Outlaw in Liangshan Marsh. Although, they're outlaws, they still have honor and integrity and live a Robin Hood type of life taking from the wealthy and corrupt and distributing to the poor (with some for themselves).

This is an epic -- 800 pages worth of epic, and although it was plo
Joseph Cognard
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recently I read, Ready Player One and it caused me to remember my favorite video games, most of which were mentioned in the book. One game that was not mentioned, but was one of my favorites, was a game called Bandits Kings of Ancient China. It was an incredibly complex game where you had to control a number of the 108 (bandits, demons and hero's) of the book. They all build individual armies, and, as you become their leader you actually control their armies both in war and building, crops, skil ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the Chinese version of a cross between the Arthurian legends and War and Peace, then Outlaws of the Marsh is the Chinese equivalent of the Robin Hood cycle crossed with Alexandre Dumas' longest serial works. This 16th-century epic novel tells the story of 108 star spirits who are incarnated as humans and band together to right injustice and just generally raise a ruckus. The individual story of how each of the 108 finds himself outside the law and forced to jo ...more
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has an amazing array of characters (no you can't keep track of them all) but it is a fun look at the warrior life in old China. Its really a 3.5

Basic plot is various top commanders and great fighters are tricked by people scheming to rise in the ranks of the emperor's army. These people eventually band together and through various journeys and wars attempt to show the emperor the corruption that has permeated his country.

The actual author or authors is unknown but it definitely has politica
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Very readable for a 450+ year old book, if you enjoy martial arts with a touch of magic, this can be a fun read. This translation is much earthier than others and I suspect closer to the original. You will find such heroes as drunken Sagacious Lu, who has a tendency to smash things up. and slimy Pecker Head. It's one of those books that young scholars would sneak into their rooms, it wasn't considered fit material for reading. Think feudal pulp fiction.

With 108 heroes, that start to blend togeth
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GREAT Chinese novel. Extremely entertaining. Pearl Buck's translation (All Men Are Brothers) is one of the most readable in English. And, from an episode in this novel came another great novel, The Golden Lotus.
Sep 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: martial arts buffs
You must love to read and love to practice chinese martial arts to get into these books. They are brilliant and also hard to follow. But do give it a try if you have the time to read.
Ellen Klempner
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yay! Just discovered you can enter in Chinese characters at Goodreads. Got lots more entering to do then!
Ian Jones
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Two things you notice about this novel are: first, you get four volumes totalling over 2100 pages in a slip case; second, each volume is perfectly sized for a laptop case or pocket or handbag. So, the formatting would have been perfect if I had still been commuting. As it was, I read all four volumes during the Co-vid lock down and semi-lock down, and had a wonderful sense of escapism, as I spent several weeks in 12th century China.
Older readers might remember the TV series The Water Margin, wh
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As one of the 4 Great Classics of Chinese Literature, it is clear how The Water Margin has earned a special, though cautious, place in the Chinese tradition. It is a tale of lawlessness and honour among thieves, and runs contrary to the Chinese tradition of law, order and stability.
Upon reading this, I was initially curious as to how this was an influence on Mao Zedong, but it becomes clear that the influence was primarily on his period before power, rather than in power. The story of the brigan
Chris Durston
The story’s worth reading, but this translation isn’t the greatest.

I really would recommend Water Margin, ‘cos there’s a lot to enjoy about it. It’s hard to tell how much of this is the style of the translator and how much is the original narrator, but there’re a lot of really idiosyncratic and interesting things about both the story itself and the character of the prose: it’s very much reminiscent of someone telling a story to a captivated audience, ending each chapter on a cliffhanger and pro
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy myths and legends of 'heroes' who are in no way heroic
Recommended to Ele by: Pearl S Buck
Well....that was a disaster.

I've been trying to read more Asian classics, so when I saw that this one was translated by Pearl S Buck, who happens to be my favourite author, I was thrilled. Than I read the book and I wasn't so thrilled. Let me count the ways.

This has to be the most repetitive book I've ever read. The pattern went like this: honor killing. massacre of innocent people. exile. encounter with a good, kind, merciful cannibal. And once you've finished that part of the cycle, it would
Hard to believe that this was written in the fourteenth century. Full of intrigue and humor that translate today.
Barack Liu
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

072-Water Margin-Shi Nai'An-History novel-1368

--The peace was originally set by the general, and the general was not allowed to see the peace.

"Water Margin" was published in China at the end of the Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty (1368). A historical novel. It tells the process of Songjiang uprising in the Song Dynasty from the occurrence, development to failure.

Shi Nai'an was born in Baiju Town, Xinghua City, Jiangsu Province (now Dafeng District, Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province) in a
"The Water Margin" is the first of the 'great Chinese novels' that I've read and I generally enjoyed it. The story is an action filled romp with a band of loosely associated outlaws who take the countryside by storm in a variety of ways that generally end with a sword fight, sling of arrows or other violent means of dying.

The book started to drag a bit for me in the middle -- the stories about the outlaws started feeling a bit to similar. It picked up again by the end though and made the long m
Kaitlyn Utkewicz
This book had everything that Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1 and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 2 lacked. I find it really surprising that people prefer the older story. The stories of the 108 "heroes" of Liangshan Marsh were all fascinating. Albeit a little bit barbaric, but fascinating. My biggest problem with Three Kingdoms was that there really wasn't anything that we really knew about the soldiers beyond their desire to fight. Here, yes, we saw this same desire to fight, but we ...more
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This book is not from Agatha Christie!!!!! 1 13 Sep 02, 2008 03:42PM  

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Shi Nai'an (Chinese: 施耐庵; pinyin: Shī Nài'ān, 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.

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