Outlaws of the Marsh

ISBN-10: 7119016628
ISBN-13: 9787119016627
Edition: N/A
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Book details

Publisher: Beijing, Foreign Languages Press
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 2149
Size: 4.50" wide x 7.25" long x 3.25" tall
Weight: 2.992
Language: English

Shih Nai-an has traditionally been credited as the primary author of the great fiction narrative Outlaws of the Marsh, or Water Margin. However, in recent years further research has made it seem increasingly clear that Lo Kuan-chung probably played as important a role in this novel as he did in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Nothing is known about Shih, but, judging from his name, which means "Patience Temple" and very much resembles the names of known thirteenth-century Buddhist sutra-reciters in Hangchow, chances are he was a master storyteller a generation or two earlier than Lo who authored the primary source from which Lo compiled the novel. Earlier in this century, there was a flurry of scholarly excitement when the alleged genealogy and epitaph of Shi Nai-an were discovered, but upon closer examination they proved to be forgeries. Perhaps someday we will uncover more evidence to clarify the authorship of the novel, but until then we will have to be content with enjoying its lively episodes and characters without knowing who was finally responsible for them. What we have is a collection of 108 bandit heroes from various conditions and walks of life, who find themselves united against official persecution in the turbulent years of the reign of Emperor Hui-tsung (1101--25). The depiction of their various backgrounds, personal traits, appearances, and experiences is extremely rich and detailed, offering a fascinating glimpse of life "upstairs and downstairs" on the rigid social ladder of late medieval China. We also have vivid and spine-chilling accounts of their various acts of murder, looting, pillage, and general mayhem, usually victimizing only the powerful and tyrannical, and championing the oppressed. Unlike the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which unfolds chronologically, Outlaws of the Marsh is like a continuing banquet, with ensemble actors leaving and returning and their escapades both past and present being gradually revealed. Despite all of the bravado and camaraderie, the novel ends on a rather sad philosophical note of disillusionment and resignation, with the bandits' dreams for a better world unfulfilled and two of the chief characters renouncing lay life for Buddhist devotions. The most enduring value that the novel teaches is i-ch'i, or selfless friendship through thick and thin, and for centuries it has stood as the embodiment of popular ideals of humanity.

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