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Outlaws of the Marsh, Vol. 4
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Past annual reads > October - December Chapters 75 - 100

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message 1: by Book (last edited Oct 14, 2018 06:09AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
Q4 Discussion

1) The whole epic adventure is now over how do you feel about it?

2) Which version did you read? Was the ending satisfying? Would you have chosen a different point to end at?

3) Quotes or actions that have stuck with you?

4) What does this saga say about power and those in power?

5) Corruption is rife among officials whose responsibility is it to resolve the situation?

6) Any questions you want to ask the group?


Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
So I have finally reached the end of this epic adventure and how am I feeling? Relieved I feel that almost a year is enough time to have spent with Song Jiang and his cohorts and I am glad to finally be free.

According to the afterword in the back of my version the 75 chapter version ends while the outlaws are still in the marsh waiting for an Imperial pardon.

The 100 chapter version that I have read ends with the death of all the rebels after an imperial pardon and after they have tackled other bandits and threats to the Emperor earning much acclaim, temples dedicated to them and the immortality of legend. A more satisfying ending just a shame it took so long to get there.

Personally if I was editing this I would have ended with the Imperial pardon and let the rest go...


Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
One thing that struck me as funny was the sheep with drumsticks tied to their legs keeping an erratic beat to convince the enemy that a camp was actually occupied and allowing an ambush to be set up.


message 4: by Dree (new)

Dree | 243 comments 1) The whole epic adventure is now over how do you feel about it?
I am glad to be done, but also very glad that I read this. I have seen random references to it in other books/movies/I honestly can't remember where, and now I will understand those references much more. I am feeling accomplished, just like I felt when I finished Pilgrim's Progress. And I will never re-read either.

2) Which version did you read? Was the ending satisfying? Would you have chosen a different point to end at?
I read the 70-chapter version. I thought the ending was appropriately vague. I re-read the intro materials after finishing the book. I had somehow thought that going from 120 chapters to 70 was a choice of the translators. I did not realize the 70-chapter version is actually from 1641, when China was in the midst of a dynasty change.

3) Quotes or actions that have stuck with you?
The repetitive nature will stick with me. Every chapter was nearly the same story over again: generally honest guy does his best but must leave town due to 1) innocent mistake 2) being cheated 3) being set up, and joins brigands due to lack of other options.

4) What does this saga say about power and those in power?
That many of those in power at the time were greedy and vain, and not following the law. This was well explained in the intro materials to the 70-chapter edition, and made much more sense when I read it after finishing than when I read it before starting.

5) Corruption is rife among officials whose responsibility is it to resolve the situation?
Per the intro to my edition, it is Confucian tradition (or belief? I am a little unclear how dynasties actually did change) that the public has the right/duty to rise up to change the government/dynasty when the current government/dynasty oversteps their bounds and does not follow laws and fulfill their duties.

6) Any questions you want to ask the group?
I could not help but be amazed by the though of feeding 20,000 people hiding out in a swamp. And the large groups of men and horses that could move quietly through the night because the horses didn't have bells. Bells aren't what make horses and men--especially large groups of horses and men--loud. Obviously neither of these situations are really what the story is getting at though.

Yay I'm done!! This is the first of the Chinese classics I have completed.


message 5: by Diane (last edited Dec 28, 2018 09:53AM) (new)

Diane | 2022 comments I was tempted to blow off the last segment since this is a re-read for me, but here I am.

1) The whole epic adventure is now over how do you feel about it?
Really happy that it is over. I will not re-read this book a third time. I did read two different translations, however, between this time and last.

2) Which version did you read? Was the ending satisfying? Would you have chosen a different point to end at?
This time I read the 100 chapter version. The ending seemed more satisfying to me than in the other chapter edition I read. Since I found the book rather repetitive, yes, I would have chosen a different point and made this a much shorter book.

3) Quotes or actions that have stuck with you?
Not really. Just numerous kowtowings, beheadings, and other gruesome demises.

4) What does this saga say about power and those in power?
Power is a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Corruption exists then as it does now.

I am happy to be finished with this (again) and the rest of the Chinese classics.


message 6: by Gail (last edited Dec 30, 2018 03:56PM) (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1268 comments 1) The whole epic adventure is now over how do you feel about it?

I am glad that I persevered and read the last book. I felt that it came full circle in an Eastern way rather than ending on the high note of simple heroics that a more Western based book would have. Song Jiang becoming someone who can continue to take care of the people past the point of his own mortal demise was a great way to end.

2) Which version did you read? Was the ending satisfying? Would you have chosen a different point to end at?

I read the 100 chapters version and as I indicated above, I am glad I did. The chapter after chapter of heroics followed by chapter after chapter of the loss of heroes made sense in the larger scheme of their world.

3) Quotes or actions that have stuck with you?

Well of course all the tropes like: of this we will say no more. However, one of the ones that really was meaningful at the end was war wizard Wu Yong's repeatedly telling Song Jiang that people die when it is their time, when it is ordained, and there is nothing that Song Jiang can do about it.

4) What does this saga say about power and those in power?

The officials of the court are largely corrupt. Some of the members of the army are honorable even if they had never been outlaws but corruption, greed and jealousy permeated the officials and the emperor was not able to see this and do something about it.

6) Any questions you want to ask the group?

I know that Outlaws of the Marsh is a contemporary tv show in China. I think it would also make a great game as you get to know so many of the outlaws/heroes and their particular talents, their weapons, their horses and their color banners and you get to travel with them as they progress from simple folk caught in the politics of the day to military heroes. Does anyone know if there is anything like that in China?

I have to say, I gave it 4 stars although it is truly great for its time. However, the middle was pretty slow for me.



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message 7: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1357 comments 1. Super satisfied. I didn't finish last year's Annual Read and know that it is unlikely that I will get back to it. This time I did it albeit with an EST rather than a NZ one!
2. I had two versions on my kindle: The Outlaws of the Marsh, translated by Sidney Shapiro, which was a 100 chapter version and The Water Margin, translated by J.H.Jackson, which was a 70 chapter version. I preferred the Shapiro. Because the book was based on earlier version of he story all the conclusions probably needed to be included.
3. Well, the whole saga reminded me of the sort of thing that a person who never grew out of playing with toy soldiers might enjoy. The way every general on every battlefield was enumerated with what costumes they were wearing. A lot of it was stiflingly boring to me, and then justt when I was nodding to sleep over yet another confrontation another instance of gratuitous cruelty would assault my sensibilities.
4. The whole Confucian system is based on rank. The great thing about it was that it was based on merit, not on accident of birth, but ancient Chinese society was obsessed with where someone fitted into the scheme of things. Officials did not tell the Emperor the truth because they were scared of the consequences. This led to the difficulties with the first two amnesties. The Emperor was divine and therefore could not make mistakes so a lot of ethical contortionism prevailed. But even although Song Jiang didn't want leadership he was very careful to rank everyone in his outlaws' lair.
4. The biggest message was that power is invested in physical strength more than ethical good, but there are many hints that it is up to the people to overthrow corrupt officials. This is shown to be almost impossible because most of the outlaws got to be so because of corruption within society.
5. It is far too late to ask any questions, everyone is looking forward to 2019 and new challenges, but I noticed some similarities between this book and Don Quixote.


message 8: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1268 comments Yes, you did it Pip. Congrats. Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration. I agree about the similarities between the two ancient classics. Class structures, clothing making the man, the place of fate in the world, supernatural events happening without anyone questioning them too much....
I enjoyed reading them together.


message 9: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1357 comments So did I, but it was a bit too much of a slog fitting them both into December, I shall try to pace myself better in 2019.


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