THE WATER MARGIN – Classic Chinese novel, by Shi Nayan

the.water.1.1Published in the 14th century, The Water Margin introduced the vernacular form and style which the others would adhere to. The novel is set in the Song dynasty and depicts a group of outlaws who eventually go on to serve the Emperor in battling foreign invaders. It was based on the real life story of the outlaw Song Jiang, who was defeated by the Emperor in the 12th century. These folk tales generated a mythology around Song Jiang which led to various dramatic adaptations and printed retellings. Based upon the historical bandit Song Jiang, this Chinese equivalent of the English classic Robin Hood. These precursors would all go on to inform Water Margin, which condensed and synthesised the various tales which had erupted around the Song Jiang story. Some have attributed Water Margin’s success to its ironic representation of common grievances against the ruling classes. Its depiction of outlaw’s rebellion tapped into resentments held by many during the Ming dynasty. The novel has gone on to be the subject of numerous modern adaptations, and has continued contemporary relevance in its prototypical tale of rebellion. While Chinese in origin, the themes of The Water Margin are universal enough that it has served as a source of inspiration for numerous movies, television shows and video games up to the present day.



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