|Water Margin character|
|Nickname||"Wanderer" / "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|
Yan Qing is a fictional character in 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 "Langzi", which translates to "Wanderer" or "Prodigal".
The novel describes Yan Qing's appearance as such: 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 (大名府; in present-day Handan, Hebei). In return, Yan Qing serves as one of Lu Junyi's stewards and is very loyal to his master.
Apart from being an accomplished martial artist and wrestler, Yan Qing is also a talented musician who plays a variety of instruments and sings ballads and songs. With his personal charisma and expertise in various fields, he blends well into society and is seen as the perfect candidate to go on stealth and espionage missions.
Becoming an outlaw
Lu Junyi falls for a ruse by Wu Yong and is tricked into meeting the Liangshan outlaws. The outlaws detain Lu but release his chief steward Li Gu and falsely inform Li that Lu has decided to join them. Wu Yong had also left a poem containing a hidden message on Lu Junyi's wall after their initial meeting (see Lu Junyi#Wu Yong's poem). The outlaws eventually allow to Lu to leave after seeing that he is reluctant to join them. When Lu returns home, he is framed by Li Gu, who has an adulterous affair with his wife. Li Gu reports his master to the authorities for collaborating with outlaws and brings soldiers to arrest Lu. Yan Qing tries to stop them but Li Gu orders the servants to chase him out of the house.
Lu Junyi is sentenced to exile on Shamen Island (沙門島; present-day Changdao County, Yantai, Shandong). 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 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, who agrees to help him save Lu Junyi and tells him to rush to Liangshan Marsh to seek help from the outlaw band. 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 rescue Lu Junyi and Shi Xiu.
Yan Qing follows his master's decision and also joins the Liangshan band. He becomes one of the leaders of the infantry after the Grand Assembly of the 108 Stars of Destiny and participates actively in the battles between the outlaws and imperial forces. He develops a close friendship with Li Kui.
On one occasion, Yan Qing and Li Kui travel to Tai'anzhou (泰安州; around present-day Tai'an, Shandong) to challenge Ren Yuan, an arrogant big-sized wrestler. Ren Yuan has been the wrestling champion in Tai'anzhou for the past two years. Yan Qing defeats the burly Ren Yuan, but Ren's men move quickly 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 contest area. Yan Qing and Li Kui are rescued at the city gates by Lu Junyi and a small group of outlaws. However, Li Kui returns alone to the inn to retrieve his axes and goes on a killing spree. All of the outlaws have escaped by the time more soldiers arrive.
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 Emperor Huizong 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 aids 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 campaign against the rebel leader Fang La. Uninterested in a civil career and afraid that Song Jiang will refuse him permission to leave, Yan Qing slips away from his Liangshan fellows on the way back to the capital. He 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 final campaign against Fang La.
Yan Qing is highly skilled in using the staff, just like Lu Junyi. He is also an accomplished wrestler and martial artist. 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 when he uses them for the first time. In legend, Yan Qing is one of the original masters of the martial art mizongyi, which brought fame to the Qing dynasty martial artist Huo Yuanjia.
- (Chinese) Li, Mengxia. 108 Heroes from the Water Margin, page 73. 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 96. 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.