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Outlaws of the Marsh/Chinese Classics/Boxed Set [Paperback]

Shi Nai'An , Guanzhong Luo , Sidney Shapiro
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 61.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

June 1993 7119016628 978-7119016627 New edition
China's great classic novel Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the fourteenth century, is a fictional account of twelfth-century events during the Song Dynasty. One by one, over a hundred men and women are forced by the harsh feudal officialdom to take to the hills. They band together and defeat every attempt of the government troops to crush them. Within this framework we find intrigue, adventure, murder, warfare, romance ... in a connected series of fascinating individual tales, told in the suspenseful manner of the traditional storyteller.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous Chinese classic July 18 2004
Format:Paperback
An evil ruler has imposed a tyrannical reign of terror over his impoverished subjects. An intrepid band of resourceful men and women, driven into hiding, have formed themselves into an outlaw army dedicated to restoring the rule of law and justice. If this seems eerily like Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, forget about Sherwood Forest and look halfway around the globe: this story takes place in twelfth-century China. Written by Shi Nai'an and Luo Guanzhong, and magnificently translated by Sidney Shapiro, "Outlaws of the Marsh" is a stirring tale about the struggles of common people standing up for themselves against an overpowering oppression.
Chinese history tells us that the outlaws of the Shantung Province marshes really existed; the story that comes down to us is based on their legendary exploits during the reign of the Sung emperor from 1101 to 1125. Sidney Shapiro's translation, neither too formal nor overly colloquial, preserves the original vernacular and brings the book vividly to life, while preserving such typically Chinese features as the double-sentence chapter headings, and chapter endings telling the reader to "Read the next chapter if you would know" what is about to happen next.
The book is a rousing, old-fashioned action/adventure story, with lots of blood, gore, and battle scenes. Sagacious Lu, Stumpy Tiger Wang, and the other marsh outlaws are no angels, any more than Robin Hood, Little John and the other Sherwood Forest gang were, but they represent the good guys as brothers in arms against a corrupt government. "Outlaws of the Marsh" has been adapted into films, picture books, puppet shows, and at least one American novel called "All Men are Brothers" by Pearl S. Buck. Children all over China know the heroes of this story by heart. Sidney Shapiro gives us a great gift in bringing their exploits to the English-speaking world.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile though politically incorrect Dec 28 2003
Format:Paperback
I bought these books for myself for Christmas. What nostalgia, I read these in the original Chinese version as a teenager.
I have seen great things said about "Outlaws of the Marsh" and I agree with them. I especially laud the translation as successful though I haven't read others. The book was written in the 14th century in "colloquial style" Chinese (similar to modern speeches), in contrast to "literal style" Chinese which contains its own set of grammer and vocabulary (almost impossible to understand to people unlearned in that format). This book follows a very colloquial approach and the occasion use of some ribaldry which I deem to be essential in conveying the nuance of the original. Regardless,there is a certain loss in the conveyance of its 14th century time setting and that is only inevitable due to the particular nature of the Chinese laguage.
After the good things said, I have to make a few warnings of the politically incorretness in this book which I don't necessarily consider the downsides of the book if not the valuables in a historical and anthropological sense.
First of all, the villains and churls in this book are the protangonists indeed and this is even unusual in Chinese literatures of background alike. Violence is imbued throughout the book and the deaths are the most gruesome as our heroes are but blood-thirst men of desparation. A Chinese idiom puts it well in particular to this book: The young ought not to read "Outlaws of the Marsh" and the old ought not to read "Three Kingdoms". The reason behind this saying is that the former involves too much violence for the testosterone-driven mind of youth and the latter involves too much schemes, shrewdness for the calculative mind of maturity.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deprive Dec 30 2003
Format:Paperback
My admiration and respect for this book grows each time I come across it on t.v or writings.
The violence in this book is one that stands out to many people. However, to me, it is not the violence, but certainly the legend being lay out before those who willing to accept that it was their destiny to be fulfilled. It is beyond the understanding of violence. in fact, it wasn't violence at all. the violence was forced out off them. violence was one that was put out by the culture in which their time requires them to be. They were guided by stars in their individual rights. Their prowess and virtue were certainly a period that cannot easily match or compare with by any other time, but maybe except the romance three kingdoms period. This story is much more than a mere period in time, it was an epic struggle for truth and justice in the face of violence that society has brought on to them. Brotherhood was built upon one thing, that is loyalty and honor. Their brotherhood was set upon one purpose in life, for glory. the glory that makes what legends all about. These people had nothing to lose, for many the brotherhood is all they have. For many reasons there, and what society had taken from them, they had managed to survive and upheld what is long lost and disappearing in this time, that is an ideal hero. In a period of chaos , heroes will arise, and so came the 108 heroes. Their individual abilities, prowesses, stories, and deeds left an imprint on this world shown being the brightest stars in heaven. what came to be an end, came to be a legend, the legend of 108 heroes was passed along through time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grand Opening into Ancient Chinese Sagas April 20 2001
By Gregory S. Combs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you read one saga in your life, you would die happy having read Outlaws of the Marsh. This is a particularly good translation and edition in that they take perhaps eight or ten different versions of this story and pack it all together in one bit so you get more quality tale for the buck. Mr. Shapiro even discusses the differences between several of the versions in the beginning of the book.

The saga takes you through a few decades of this roaming band of Chinese warriors in a land of corruption and evil. Though they are no angels themselves (in fact they are demons on Earth), they fight together for loyalty and honor in the name of the Emperor during the Song dynasty.

The descriptions of the battles are vivid and enthralling, and the window into the culture of that time is truly something to cherish.

An ancient story such as this is not something to be taken lightly, though it has plenty of humor, sorrow, and action to captivate the attention of all ages. Characters such as Sagacious Lu, Stumpy Tiger Wang, and Liu Kui the Blackwhirlwind, will forever be a part of you in your travels. Chairman Mao, himself, actually carried this book with him during the Long March in China as a constant reminder of the proud traditions of the Chinese people.

[Revised Edit]
From reading some of the other reviews, I think I've come to a realization. For readers, Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms are a little bit like 1984 and Brave New World. Hear me out, doubters. If you read Brave New World first, you tend to have a pretty strong dislike for 1984, and vice versa. Those who've read Romance of the Three Kingdoms may pick up Outlaws of the Marsh expecting something similar in style. If that's what they're after, they'll be disappointed. I however read 1984 first, as well as Outlaws of the Marsh. Therefore, I couldn't even stand to finish Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Like it or not, Outlaws of the Marsh is truly one of a kind. You'll likely finish it like I did, wanting even more, but realizing that you've just eaten the very last Twinkie on the planet. Except here, you can just go back and reread it all over again.
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Tale that has Endured the Centuries March 22 2001
By Xoe Li Lu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Outlaws of the Marsh" provides a fascinating look into 14th century Chinese literature- and thus the minds of 14th century Chinese the story was intended to entertain. The story was extremely popular in its day, for many of the same reasons that it endures as a stunning example of Chinese story telling today.
An excellent example of 14th century Chinese vernacular literature, "Outlaws of the Marsh" has been a favorite of Chinese readers for over 600 years. This riveting story has endured the centuries for a very good reason. It contains elements that captivate even today's jaded audiences: deception, violence, murder, gangs, and drunken revelry. Rife with charismatic heroes, scheming beauties, wild troublemakers and corrupt officials, the story brims with interesting characters and plot twists. The outlaws of Liangshan Marsh, societal outcasts drawn together by their misdeeds, form an almost super-human collective against the unjust (sort of like a precursor to Robin Hood). The story is peopled with rash, violent men; lusty, evil-minded beauties; upstanding men of honor fighting for what is right; well-meaning yet dangerous oafs; and corrupt, tyrannical officials. This tale of Song Jiang, Wu Song, and the rest of the "outlaws" will keep you on the edge of your seat.
90 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the translation!!!! March 12 2004
By claviercat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Am I the only person who loves these books and thinks they're absolutely hilarious because of the Sidney Shapiro translation? I feel very shallow, because the stories and characters are certainly fascinating, but I get an enormous kick out of such lines as this:
"Frigging monkeyshines! Who says I have any Right Honorable XImen in there!"
"Don't hog him all to yourself! Let me have a lick of the juice too. Think I don't know?"
"Little ape! What do you know?"
"Stingy as cutting vegetables with a hoof-paring knife in a wooden spoon, aren't you?"
And the fact that they keep saying things like, "I don't give a tooting fart!"
I apologize for this not-very-intellectual assessment of the books, but they kept me laughing out loud and reading choice passages to people. I love them!!!
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarification on Title, Author, Story Oct. 18 2001
By wavingdragon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Shui Hu Zhuan" (pinyin, this is how it is read in Putonghua/Chinese) is one of the four greatest Chinese novels. It is also known as "Shui Hu Chuan" and has been translated to titles such as "The Water Margin", "Outlaws of the Marsh", "All Men Are Brothers" etc.
It is generally accepted that Shi Nai'an is the author of this novel who is rumoured to live from late Yuan to early Ming Dynasty, around mid 14th century, though no one has ever been able to provide solid proof of his existence. Some believe that Luo Guanzhong, author of "San Guo Yan Yi"/"Three Kingdoms", is either the co-author or editor of "Shui Hu Zhuan".
Although the novel is around 600 to 650 years old, the story is about how 108 men and women became the heroic outlaws of the Marsh of Mount Liang (Liangshanbo) during the reign of Emperor Huizong of Northern Song Dynasty (1101-1125), i.e. more than two centuries before the completion of the novel.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous Chinese classic July 18 2004
By JLind555 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An evil ruler has imposed a tyrannical reign of terror over his impoverished subjects. An intrepid band of resourceful men and women, driven into hiding, have formed themselves into an outlaw army dedicated to restoring the rule of law and justice. If this seems eerily like Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, forget about Sherwood Forest and look halfway around the globe: this story takes place in twelfth-century China. Written by Shi Nai'an and Luo Guanzhong, and magnificently translated by Sidney Shapiro, "Outlaws of the Marsh" is a stirring tale about the struggles of common people standing up for themselves against an overpowering oppression.
Chinese history tells us that the outlaws of the Shantung Province marshes really existed; the story that comes down to us is based on their legendary exploits during the reign of the Sung emperor from 1101 to 1125. Sidney Shapiro's translation, neither too formal nor overly colloquial, preserves the original vernacular and brings the book vividly to life, while preserving such typically Chinese features as the double-sentence chapter headings, and chapter endings telling the reader to "Read the next chapter if you would know" what is about to happen next.
The book is a rousing, old-fashioned action/adventure story, with lots of blood, gore, and battle scenes. Sagacious Lu, Stumpy Tiger Wang, and the other marsh outlaws are no angels, any more than Robin Hood, Little John and the other Sherwood Forest gang were, but they represent the good guys as brothers in arms against a corrupt government. "Outlaws of the Marsh" has been adapted into films, picture books, puppet shows, and at least one American novel called "All Men are Brothers" by Pearl S. Buck. Children all over China know the heroes of this story by heart. Sidney Shapiro gives us a great gift in bringing their exploits to the English-speaking world.

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