Mar 20, 2014


Outlaws of the Marsh - One of the Four Classical Novels in China

Outlaws of the Marsh, written more than 600 years ago, is the first vernacular novel with Chapter Style (a type of traditional Chinese novel with each chapter headed by a couplet giving the gist of its content) in the history of Chinese novel. It is listed as China's Four Famous Classicals together with Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and A Dream of Red Mansions. The novel is recreated and completed by Shi Nai'an and Luo Guanzhong based on historical events and folklore.

Outlaws of the Marsh is an overall description of the insurgence led by Song Jiang. Starting from Gao Qiu's rise to power, persecution of the faithful and upright, the novel depicts that the heroes in the country gathered in the Liangshan Mountain to start an uprising, and then they were offered amnesty and enlistment (they gave in their submission to the imperial court). After conquered the state of Liao and Fangla, they were murdered by treacherous court officials. Full of legendary stories, the novel is soul-stirring.

Outlaws of the Marsh has attained outstanding achievements in literary arts. The novel describes a total of 787 characters, more figures than any other novel in the world. These figures have complicated characteristics and detailed description. The novel has created a common, concise, vivid, and expressive literary language on the basis of folk spoken language.

The novel is usually translated into Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh in English. Among many translated versions, All Men Are Brothers by Ms. Pearl Buck in the mid and late 1920s is the first translation. So far, Outlaws of the Marsh with 100 chapters in total is considered as a relatively good English version, translated by Mr. Sidney Shapiro, an American Jewish scholar of Chinese nationality.

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