|Water Margin character|
|Rank||18th, Guardian Star (天祐星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Tiger Cub Vanguard General of Liangshan|
|Origin||Instructor of Gold Lancers unit of the imperial army|
|First appearance||Chapter 56|
|Weapon||Hooked Lance (鈎鐮槍)|
Xu Ning is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 18th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Gold Lancer".
Water Margin describes Xu Ning as six chi tall, with a fair face, a thin dark beard and a wide waist. He is the martial arts instructor of the Gold Lancers unit of the imperial army and he trains the men in using the unique Hooked Lance. He leads a prestigious early life in Dongjing (present-day Kaifeng, Henan) and is well respected by his colleagues. He earns himself the nickname "Gold Lancer" for his prowess in martial arts, and more importantly, for being the only known exponent of the unique Hooked Lance. The lance looks similar to a Chinese spear, but with a hook on the side of the spear's shaft.
The Liangshan outlaws are at war with the imperial forces led by Huyan Zhuo. Huyan Zhuo's army defeats the Liangshan forces with its seemingly invincible chain-linked armoured cavalry. Xu Ning's cousin, Tang Long, who has joined Liangshan, recommends Xu to Song Jiang, saying that Xu is the only person who knows how to defeat Huyan Zhuo's cavalry. Song Jiang is eager to recruit Xu Ning to join the Liangshan cause when he hears of Xu's background and skill. He sends Tang Long, Dai Zong and Shi Qian to lure Xu Ning to Liangshan.
Shi Qian steals Xu Ning's family heirloom, a gold armoured vest that is extremely light and yet capable of stopping sharp weapons from piercing through. Xu Ning values his vest highly and is determined to catch the thief and retrieve his stolen possession. He is unable to catch up with Dai Zong, who uses his magic power to travel at superhuman speed. Xu Ning eventually reaches an inn where he meets Tang Long. Tang Long pretends to sympathise with his cousin and agrees to follow Xu Ning on the quest to recover the stolen vest. The inn is run by Liangshan's Zhu Gui and Zhu Fu, who put drugs into the food served to Xu Ning. Xu Ning consumes the food unsuspectingly and is knocked out. The outlaws send him to Liangshan when he is unconscious.
When Xu Ning regains consciousness, he is surprised to find himself at Liangshan. When he learns that he has been forcefully lured to Liangshan to join the outlaws, he is very unhappy. However, his mood lightens when he sees his former colleague, Lin Chong, who has also become an outlaw after being framed by corrupt officials. Lin Chong and Song Jiang succeed in persuading Xu Ning to join the Liangshan cause of "delivering justice on Heaven's behalf". Meanwhile, Xu Ning is overjoyed to see that the Liangshan heroes have conveniently brought his family to Liangshan as well and he gets back his vest.
Xu Ning trains the Liangshan infantry in using the Hooked Lance and they emerge victorious over Huyan Zhuo's chain-linked armoured cavalry in the subsequent battle. The hooks on the lances are used to attack the horses' legs and drag them to the ground, bringing down the other horses linked to the fallen horse. The cavalry formation is thus destroyed.
Campaigns and death
Xu Ning becomes one of the Eight Tiger Cub Vanguard Generals of the Liangshan cavalry. He joins the Liangshan heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after they have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong. During the Fang La campaign, Xu Ning is assigned to attack Hangzhou together with Hao Siwen. Hao Siwen is captured by the enemy general Fang Tianding. Xu Ning attempts to rescue Hao Siwen but he is hit by a poisoned arrow in the neck and dies from poisoning later.
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- 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.
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