|Water Margin character|
|Nickname||"Living King Yama"
|Rank||31st, Defeat Star (天敗星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Navy leader of Liangshan|
|Ancestral home / Place of origin||Shijie Village (in present-day Liangshan County, Jining, Shandong)|
|First appearance||Chapter 15|
Ruan Xiaoqi, also known as Ruan the Seventh, is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 31st of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Living King Yama".
The novel describes Ruan Xiaoqi as a man with an unusual appearance. He has bulging eyes, pale yellow whiskers and dark patches on his skin that makes him seem as though he is a bronze statue. He bears a resemblance to King Yama, the ruler of Hell in Chinese mythology, and is thus nicknamed "Living King Yama".
Ruan Xiaoqi is the youngest of the three Ruan brothers (Ruan Xiaoer, Ruan Xiaowu and himself). The brothers live in Shijie Village (石碣村; in present-day Liangshan County, Jining, Shandong), where they earn a living by fishing and trading illegally on the river. The brothers are powerful swimmers. Ruan Xiaoqi enjoys gambling and spends all his money most of the time. He is also known to be very direct in speech and impatient.
Becoming an outlaw
Wu Yong succeeds in persuading the Ruan brothers to join Chao Gai, himself, Gongsun Sheng and Liu Tang to rob the convoy of birthday gifts for the Imperial Tutor, Cai Jing. The government orders the arrest of the seven men after the incident and they flee to Liangshan Marsh for refuge.
Wang Lun, the incompetent and selfish leader of the outlaws, refuses to allow Chao Gai and company to join the band and tries to send them away with gifts. Wu Yong instigates Lin Chong to kill Wang Lun, and then Chao Gai then succeeds Wang as chief of Liangshan. Ruan Xiaoqi takes the eight position of leadership among all the leaders. He is appointed as one of the leaders of the Liangshan navy for his expertise in naval warfare.
Ruan Xiaoqi participates in the subsequent battles against the enemies of Liangshan. During the battle with imperial forces led by Guan Sheng, Ruan Xiaoqi attempts to sneak into the enemy camp to rescue the captured Zhang Heng but fails and he is also caught as well. He is released after Guan Sheng surrenders and joins Liangshan.
Campaigns and death
After the outlaws have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong, Ruan Xiaoqi follows them on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces. His brothers are not as lucky as him as they perished during the final campaign against the rebel leader Fang La. Ruan Xiaoqi dons Fang La's crown and robes in excitement after the victory over Fang's forces.
When the surviving Liangshan forces return to the capital to report their victory, the emperor is pleased and rewards the heroes by offering them official posts. When Ruan Xiaoqi is about to receive his appointment, Gao Qiu and Cai Jing report him to the emperor and claim that he had committed an act of treason earlier by wearing the garments of a pretender to the throne of the Song Empire. Ruan Xiaoqi is dismissed from office and demoted to the rank of a commoner after the emperor shows leniency. He goes home and leads a happy life until his death at the age of 70.
- (Chinese) Li, Mengxia. 108 Heroes from the Water Margin, page 63. 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 95. 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.