The Tale of Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh is a landmark in Chinese literature. It vividly portrays ancient China and its people, more precisely the mid Song dynasty. This novel is also one of the famous Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literatures. This novel tells the story of a group of people who represent different social classes of ancient China.
There are a group of 105 men and 3 women who stand against the evils of the society and social structure. The incidents describe how this group of people is oppressed and humiliated by corrupt, unscrupulous officials of the era. And then the novel goes on to record vivid pictures of farmers’ uprising, the bonds of friendship, the ironies of friendship and enmity.
This piece of classic Chinese literature is based loosely on actual incidents. Actually the story of the novel allegorically describes the incidents in the life of Song Jiang, a ferocious bandit, and his 36 companions. History records that this group was active in or around the regions of Huai River and they ultimately surrendered to the government forces in 1119.
The heroes and the heroines of this novel, after taking an oath to fight against the evils of ancient China, surrender too. After that they avowed to fight against other kingdoms. Some of them died while fighting and the rest of them badly wounded.
Critics differ as to the authorship of this great example of Chinese literature. But most of them agree that the first 70 chapters were written by Shi Naian while the rest was written by Luo Guanzhong. You can read this whole novel to have a glimpse of ancient China and its people.