|Water Margin character|
|Also known as||
|Rank||10th, Noble Star (天貴星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Chief accountant of Liangshan|
|Ancestral home / Place of origin||Cangzhou, Hebei|
|First appearance||Chapter 9|
Chai Jin is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 10th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Little Whirlwind". His role in the novel is straddled between an idling aristocrat who befriends jianghu figures and a maverick who toys with the status quo associated with his royal lineage.
The novel describes Chai Jin as a handsome man with eyebrows like a dragon's, eyes like a phoenix's, red lips and white teeth. His ancestor is Chai Rong, the second emperor of the Later Zhou dynasty. The Chenqiao Mutiny broke out in 960, a year after Chai Rong's death. Zhao Kuangyin, a Later Zhou general, was dressed in an emperor's robe by his supporters, who urged him to seize power from Chai Rong's young son, Chai Zongxun. He reluctantly agreed and founded the Song dynasty to replace the Later Zhou. However, he felt guilty about usurping the throne, so he treated the Chai family well and gave them a danshu tiequan (丹書鐵券; lit. "iron certificate inscribed in red ink"), which essentially placed them above the law and entitled them to some special privileges. Chai Jin inherits his ancestors' residence in Cangzhou, Hebei, and the danshu tiequan.
Throughout the novel, some of the 108 Liangshan heroes, such as Lin Chong, Wu Song and Song Jiang, took refuge in Chai Jin's residence before making their way to the outlaw stronghold at Liangshan Marsh. This is because Chai Jin's residence is protected by the danshu tiequan, so the authorities cannot enter his house without his permission. Chai Jin is also very generous with using his wealth to help his friends and the needy. The Liangshan outlaws regard Chai Jin as their close friend and ally.
Chai Jin's uncle is bullied and beaten up by Yin Tianxi, a relative of Gao Lian, the corrupt governor of Gaotangzhou (高唐州; around present-day Gaotang County, Liaocheng, Shandong). He dies from his injuries later. Chai Jin goes to confront Yin Tianxi, who behaves arrogantly and rudely towards him. He is accompanied by Liangshan's Li Kui, who kills Yin Tianxi in anger. Gao Lian is so furious when he learns of Yin Tianxi's death that he completely disregards Chai Jin's "untouchable" status and orders his soldiers to arrest Chai and throw him into prison. Li Kui escapes from Gaotangzhou, returns to Liangshan, and seeks help from his fellows to save Chai Jin.
The Liangshan outlaws form an army to attack Gaotangzhou and rescue Chai Jin. Gao Lian uses dark magic against them and succeeds in keeping them at bay until Gongsun Sheng arrives and defeats him in a battle of magic. Gao Lian is slain by Liangshan's Lei Heng while trying to escape after his defeat. The outlaws occupy Gaotangzhou and enter the prison to search for Chai Jin but to no avail. They eventually learn from a jailer that Gao Lian had hidden Chai Jin at the bottom of a dry well. Chai Jin was tortured and deprived of food and water while he was imprisoned, so he appears to be on the verge of death when the outlaws managed to bring him out of the well. He receives medical treatment in time and survives the ordeal.
Becoming an outlaw
Chai Jin decides to join Liangshan as an outlaw. He and Li Ying become the chief accountants of Liangshan's income and provisions after the Grand Assembly of the 108 Stars of Destiny. He follows the heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after they have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong.
During the campaign against the rebel leader Fang La, Chai Jin and Yan Qing infiltrate enemy territory and serve as moles for the Liangshan forces. Chai Jin adopts an undercover identity, "Ke Yin" (柯引), and succeeds in earning the trust of Fang La and his subordinates. He becomes Fang La's son-in-law after marrying Fang's daughter, Princess Jinzhi. During the final battle between Liangshan and Fang La's forces, Chai Jin provides Fang's army with a false sense of security by defeating several Liangshan generals in battle. In reality, however, the Liangshan generals were unhurt and were pretending to be injured. Fang La is caught off guard when Chai Jin and Yan Qing suddenly reveal their true identities and attack him. Chai Jin and Yan Qing combine forces to defeat and kill Fang La's nephew, Fang Jie, and assist their Liangshan fellows in capturing Fang's base.
Chai Jin is one of the few surviving Liangshan heroes by the end of the campaigns. He accepts an official post offered to him by the emperor in recognition of his contributions to the Song Empire during the campaigns. However, he fears that the corrupt officials in the imperial court would find fault with him for his relationship with Fang La's family, so he resigns and returns home, where he leads a happy and luxurious life until his death.
- List of Water Margin minor characters#Chai Jin's story for a list of supporting minor characters from Chai Jin's story.
- (Chinese) Li, Mengxia. 108 Heroes from the Water Margin, page 21. EPB Publishers Pte Ltd, 1992. ISBN 9971-0-0252-3.
- Buck, Pearl. All Men are Brothers. Moyer Bell Ltd, 2006. ISBN 9781559213035.
- Zhang, Lin Ching. Biographies of Characters in Water Margin. Writers Publishing House, 2009. ISBN 978-7506344784.
- Shibusawa, Kou. Bandit Kings of Ancient China, page 92. KOEI, 1989.
- (Japanese) Ichisada, Miyazaki. Suikoden: Kyoko no naka no Shijitsu. Chuo Koronsha, 1993. ISBN 978-4122020559.
- Miyamotois, Yoko. Water Margin: Chinese Robin Hood and His Bandits.
- Keffer, David. Outlaws of the Marsh.