Yan Qing

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Yan Qing
Water Margin character
Nickname "The Prodigal"
Rank 36th, Skilful Star (天巧星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Infantry leader of Liangshan
Origin Lu Junyi's steward
Hometown Daming Prefecture (in present-day Handan, Hebei)
First appearance Chapter 60
Weapon Crossbow
Simplified Chinese 燕青
Traditional Chinese 燕青
Pinyin Yàn Qīng
Wade–Giles Yen Ch'ing
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yan.

Yan Qing is a fictional character in the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 36th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Wanderer" or "Prodigal".

Non-scholarly and fictional sources indicate that Yan Qing was a grand-student of Zhou Tong.[citation needed]


The Water Margin describes Yan Qing as a handsome youth over six chi tall, with red lips, thick eyebrows, broad shoulders and a narrow waist. He sports flowery tattoos all over his upper torso, which appear prominently due to the contrast of his pale complexion. He loses his parents at an early age and is raised by the wealthy squire Lu Junyi, who lives in Daming Prefecture (in present-day Handan, Hebei). Lu Junyi allows Yan Qing to be one of his stewards in his residence. Yan Qing is very loyal to his master and becomes Lu Junyi's right-hand man.

Apart from being a powerful fighter, Yan Qing is also a talented musician. He can play many musical instruments and sing ballads and songs. He earns himself the nickname "Wanderer" or "Prodigal". He blends into society well for his knowledge and expertise in various fields and his charisma. Due to these traits he possesses, he was the perfect candidate to go on a variety of stealth and espionage missions in many campaigns.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

Lu Junyi falls for a ruse by Wu Yong and is tricked into meeting the Liangshan outlaws. The outlaws detain Lu but release Lu Junyi's head steward Li Gu, falsely informing him that Lu has decided to join them. Wu Yong had also left a poem containing a hidden message on Lu Junyi's wall upon their initial meeting (see Lu Junyi#Wu Yong's poem). Thus, when Lu Junyi is finally allowed to return home several months later, Li Gu immediately has him arrested. Yan Qing tries to stop them but fails and Li Gu chases him out of the house.

Lu Junyi is sentenced to exile on Shamen Island. The guards escorting him there have been bribed by Li Gu to finish him off along the way. Yan Qing follows Lu Junyi secretly and he kills the guards when they are about to murder his master. He rescues Lu Junyi but they are surrounded by soldiers and Lu is captured again. Yan Qing flees to seek help and runs into Shi Xiu. Shi Xiu agrees to help him save Lu Junyi and tells him to rush to Liangshan Marsh to seek help. Shi Xiu fails to save Lu Junyi when he storms the execution ground alone and is captured as well. Yan Qing brings the Liangshan outlaws to attack Daming Prefecture and they defeat imperial forces and succeed in rescuing Lu Junyi and Shi Xiu.


Yan Qing joins the Liangshan outlaw band together with his master. He becomes one of the leaders of the infantry after the Grand Assembly and participates actively in the battles between Liangshan and imperial forces. He develops a close friendship with Li Kui as well.

On one occasion, Yan Qing travels to Tai'anzhou (in present-day Shandong) accompanied by Li Kui to challenge an arrogant big-sized wrestler named Ren Yuan. Ren Yuan had been the wrestling champion of the East Sacred Mountain Temple fair for the past two years. Yan Qing defeats the burly Ren Yuan, but Ren's men quickly move to seize the trophies. A crowd stampede ensues and Li Kui is recognised by some of the spectators. Upon hearing Li Kui's name called out, soldiers pour into the temple. Yan Qing and Li Kui are then rescued at the temple gate by Lu Junyi and a small group of outlaws. However, Li Kui returns alone to the inn get his axes and then goes on a killing spree. All of the outlaws have escaped by the time a larger group of soldiers arrives.

Song Jiang hopes that the government will grant the outlaws amnesty and provide them with opportunities to serve the nation. He sends Yan Qing to make contact with Li Shishi, a prostitute whom the emperor frequently visits. Li Shishi quickly becomes enamoured with Yan Qing, but Yan subtly resists her sexual innuendos to ensure that his mission is not compromised. He wittingly asks to become her sworn brother, thus successfully forestalling her romantic ambitions. The emperor makes a surprise visit on the same night and Li Shishi tells him that Yan Qing is her cousin. After entertaining the emperor with ballads, Yan Qing claims that he has escaped from Liangshan. He speaks on the outlaws' behalf and explains why the previous attempts at amnesty failed. The emperor then writes him an official pardon at the insistence of Li Shishi. Afterwards, Yan Qing and Dai Zong visit Marshal Su Jin, who further aid the outlaws in their appeal for amnesty.

Yan Qing follows the heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces and makes great contributions. He is one of the few lucky survivors after the Fang La campaign. Uninterested in a civil career and afraid that Song Jiang will refuse him permission to leave, Yan Qing slips away from Song's army on the way back to the capital. Yan Qing leads a reclusive life until the end of his days.

In many popular depictions, Yan Qing and Li Shishi become lovers and abscond to places unknown after the Fang La campaign.


Yan Qing is highly skilled in the use of the staff just like Lu Junyi. He is also an accomplished wrestler and martial artist, and even Li Kui fears him. His primary weapon is the crossbow and he fires no more than three arrows with it every time in combat. He is also skilled in using a normal bow, as demonstrated when he shoots down a flock of birds with a normal bow and arrows for the first time he uses them. In legend, Yan Qing is one of the original masters of the martial art mizongyi.