Water Margin

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Within the bounds of the four seas, all men are brothers.

Water Margin (Chinese: 水滸傳; pinyin: Shuǐhǔ Zhuàn) is a Chinese novel attributed to Shi Nai'an. Considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, the novel is written in vernacular Chinese rather than Classical Chinese. The story, set in the Song dynasty, tells of how a group of 108 outlaws gather at Mount Liang (or Liangshan Marsh) to form a sizable army before they are eventually granted amnesty by the government and sent on campaigns to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces. It has introduced to readers many of the best-known characters in Chinese literature, such as Wu Song, Lin Chong and Lu Zhishen.


Outlaws of the Marsh (The Water Margin), trans. Sidney Shapiro
Meeting a man of fame is better than just hearing his name.
  • 闻名不如见面,见面胜似闻名。
    • Meeting a man of fame is better than just hearing his name.
      • Chapter 3
  • 饥不择食,寒不择衣,惶不择路,贫不择妻。
    • Any food when you're hungry,
      When you're cold rags save life;
      Any road when you're frightened,
      When you're poor any wife.
      • Chapter 3
  • [Lu Zhishen] bent and grasped the lower part of the trunk with his right hand, while his left hand seized it higher up, then gave a tremendous wrench—and pulled the tree from the ground, roots and all!
    • Chapter 7
  • [Song Jiang] helped anyone, high or low, who sought his aid. [...] He was always making things easy for people, solving their difficulties, settling differences, saving lives. He provided the indigent with funds for coffins and medicines, gave charity to the poor, assisted in emergencies, helped in cases of hardship. And so he was famed throughout the provinces of Shandong and Hebei, and was known to all as the Timely Rain, for like the rain from the heavens he brought succor to every living thing.
    • Chapter 18
  • 水来土掩,兵到将迎。
    • Earth can stop the flow of water, generals can cope with enemy troops.
      • Chapter 20
  • 公人见钱,如蝇子见血。
    • Money to an official is like blood to a fly.
      • Chapter 21
  • 祸福无门,惟人自招;披麻救火,惹焰烧身。
    • Calamity and happiness have no volition. Man brings them on himself. Go in a flaxen cape to put out a fire and you'll be consumed by flames.
      • Chapter 21
  • 人命大如天。
    • The importance of human life is vast as the sky!
      • Chapter 22
  • 人无千日好,花无摘下红。
    • Friends don't last forever!
      • Chapter 22
  • 送君千里,终须一别。
    • Though you see a friend off a thousand li, sooner or later you must part.
      • Chapter 23


"Three bowls and you can't cross the ridge."
  • 三碗不过冈。
    • Three bowls [of our wine] and you can't cross the ridge.
      • Chapter 23: 'Wu Song Kills a Tiger on Jingyang Ridge'
  • 人无刚骨,安身不牢。
    • There's safety only in a stiff backbone.
      • Chapter 24
  • 花木瓜,空好看。
    • The prettiest papayas are emptiest inside.
      • Chapter 24
  • 表壮不如里壮。
    • Inner force counts more than outward strength.
      • Chapter 24
  • 篱牢犬不入。
    • When the fence is strong no dogs get in.
      • Chapter 24
  • 没巧不成话。
    • Without coincidence there would be no story.
      • Chapter 24
  • 骏马却驮痴汉走,美妻常伴拙夫眠。
    • A magnificent steed gets a dolt for a rider, a charming wife sleeps with an oaf of a husband.
      • Chapter 24
  • 入门休问荣枯事,观着容颜便得知。
    • One look at a man's face tells you whether he's prospering or suffering.
      • Chapter 24
  • 远亲不如近邻。
    • A close neighbor means more than a distant relative.
      • Chapter 24
  • 柔软是立身之本,刚强是惹祸之胎。
    • The pliant rise in the world, the hard invite disaster.
      • Chapter 24
  • 好事不出门,恶事传千里。
    • News of good behavior never gets past the door, but a scandal is heard of a thousand li away.
      • Chapter 24
  • 初嫁从亲,再嫁由身。
    • Parents pick the first husband, widows choose the second.
      • Chapter 25
  • 乐极生悲,否极泰来。
    • Ecstasy begets tragedy, from misery good fortune springs.
      • Chapter 26
  • 天有不测风云,人有暂时祸福。
    • The winds and clouds in the sky are unfathomable. A man's luck changes in an instant.
      • Chapter 26
  • 冤各有头,债各有主。
    • The culprit must pay for his wrong, the debtor for his debt.
      • Chapter 26
  • 捉奸见双,捉贼见赃,杀人见伤。
    • For adultery catch the pair, for robbery find the loot, for murder produce the body.
      • Chapter 26
  • 经目之事,犹恐未真。
    • Even what you see with your own eyes may not be true.
      • Chapter 26
  • 兔死狐悲。
    • When the rabbit dies, the fox mourns. All are of the same animal kingdom.
      • Chapter 28
  • 冤仇可解不可结。
    • The knot of hatred should be opened, not tightened.
      • Chapter 33
If fated, men come together though a thousand li apart. If not, they miss each other though they meet face to face.
  • 有缘千里来相会,无缘对面不相逢。
    • If fated, men come together though a thousand li apart. If not, they miss each other though they meet face to face.
      • Chapter 35
  • 好人相逢,恶人远离。
    • When good folk meet, evil men keep their distance.
      • Chapter 37
  • 福无双至,祸不单行。
    • Luck comes but once, but trouble comes in droves.
      • Chapter 37
  • 不打不成相识。
    • You don't know a man till you've fought him.
      • Chapter 38
  • 打草惊蛇。
    • Disturbing the grass alerts the snake.
      • Chapter 39
  • 人无千日好,花无百日红。
    • Good times don't last forever, all flowers fade.
      • Chapter 44
  • 四海之内,皆兄弟也。
    • Within the bounds of the four seas, all men are brothers.
      • Chapter 44
  • 养兵千日,用在一朝!
    • Soldiers are trained for months for the sake of a few days of battle.
      • Chapter 61
  • 得之易,失之易;得之难,失之难。
    • Easily obtained, easily lost; arduously obtained, strongly held.
      • Chapter 96

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