Yang Zhi (Water Margin)
|Water Margin character|
|Nickname||"Blue Faced Beast"
|Rank||17th, Dark Star (天暗星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Tiger Cub Vanguard General of Liangshan|
|Origin||Military officer in the Grand Marshal's office|
|First appearance||Chapter 12|
Yang Zhi is a fictional character in the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 17th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Blue Faced Beast".
The Water Margin describes Yang Zhi as about seven chi tall, with red whiskers on the sides of his face, and a blue birthmark on his face, which earns him the nickname "Blue Faced Beast". Yang Zhi is highly skilled in martial arts and uses either a saber or a spear in battle. He is also an excellent archer as well. Yang Zhi is a descendant of the Song Dynasty general Yang Ye. He works as a low-ranking military officer in the office of Grand Marshal Gao Qiu in Dongjing (present-day Kaifeng, Henan).
Once, he is tasked with escorting a convoy of rare minerals and plants obtained from the common people, known as a huashigang (花石綱) tribute, for the emperor, but loses the goods by accident while crossing the Yellow River during a storm. He is afraid of returning to report to his superior after failing his mission. Yang Zhi manages to scrape some money as compensation for the lost goods and travels back to Dongjing, but overhears news that the newly enthroned emperor is granting amnesty to certain people who have violated the law, to celebrate his ascension. On the way back to the capital, Yang Zhi passes by Liangshan Marsh and encounters Lin Chong. Lin Chong wants to kill him and take his head to prove his loyalty to Liangshan's chief Wang Lun. After several rounds of fighting, neither of them emerges as the victor. Just then, Wang Lun appears and stops the fight. He is impressed by Yang Zhi's skill and wants to recruit Yang to join Liangshan, although he is not sincere about it. Yang Zhi declines and leaves.
Selling his precious saber
Yang Zhi returns to Dongjing to report to Gao Qiu about his failed mission, expecting to be pardoned as per the emperor's decision to grant amnesty to offenders. However, Gao Qiu does not forgive Yang Zhi and has Yang stripped off his post. Yang Zhi becomes penniless and wanders around the city aimlessly. He decides to sell his family heirloom, a precious saber, to earn some money. He is harassed by the hooligan Niu Er in the marketplace and he kills Niu accidentally. Yang Zhi then goes to the county office to surrender himself and is placed on trial for murder. The local residents are grateful to Yang Zhi for killing Niu Er, who has been terrorising them, and they plead with the magistrate for leniency on Yang's behalf. The magistrate sentences Yang Zhi to face tattooing and exile to Daming Prefecture (in present-day Handan, Hebei).
Escorting the convoy of birthday gifts
In Daming Prefecture, Yang Zhi meets Grand Secretary Liang Shijie. Liang Shijie has heard about Yang Zhi and intends to let Yang serve under him. The next day, Yang Zhi engages some of Liang Shijie's military officers in jousts and defeats them with ease. Liang Shijie is impressed with Yang Zhi's skill and intends to promote him to a high-ranking military post. However, Suo Chao objects to Liang Shijie's decision and he challenges Yang Zhi to a contest. Yang Zhi and Suo Chao fight for several rounds and neither emerges the winner. Eventually, Liang Shijie decides to promote both Yang Zhi and Suo Chao to the same rank.
Liang Shijie treats Yang Zhi well and assigns him to lead some men to escort a convoy of birthday gifts (生辰纲) to Dongjing for Liang's father-in-law, the Imperial Tutor Cai Jing. This convoy is a good example of the corruption in the Song government, since lower-ranked officials often extorted money from the common folk and used them to purchase gifts for their higher-ranked colleagues in hope that they will be promoted faster. Yang Zhi and his men disguise themselves as ordinary traders so as not to arouse any suspicion from potential robbers. However, they still fall for Wu Yong's scheme at Yellow Soil Ridge. They are tricked into drinking drugged wine and all of them become unconscious. Chao Gai and his six companions then make off with the birthday gifts while Yang Zhi and his men are knocked out.
Becoming an outlaw
Since Yang Zhi took only sips of the wine, he is the first to recover consciousness and his men are still out cold. He is afraid to return to Daming Prefecture after failing his mission. He feels depressed and decides to abandon his men. Yang Zhi has been very strict with his men earlier during the journey by pushing them to their limits, depriving them of sleep and rest. As such, when his men come to, they see that Yang Zhi had left them and decide to frame him. They return to Daming Prefecture and lie to Liang Shijie that Yang Zhi has collaborated with robbers to steal the birthday gifts. Liang Shijie is furious and he issues an order for Yang Zhi's arrest. Meanwhile, Yang Zhi reaches Cao Zheng's restaurant and tries to leave after his meal without paying. Cao Zheng fights with Yang Zhi and they become friends after recognising each other. They meet Lu Zhishen and the three of them travel to Mount Twin Dragons where they kill the bandit leader Deng Long and seize control of the stronghold.
Yang Zhi stays with some other outlaws on Mount Twin Dragons and participates in the battle of Qingzhou (in present-day Shandong). After the battle, he follows his fellows back to Liangshan. After the Grand Assembly, Yang Zhi becomes one of the Eight Tiger Cub Vanguard Generals of the Liangshan cavalry. He follows the heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after the heroes have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong. He dies of illness during the Fang La campaign after the capture of Dantu County.
Yang Zhi's precious saber
Yang Zhi has a precious saber as his family heirloom, which has been passed down from generation to generation since the time of his ancestor, Yang Ye. The saber is said to possess three extraordinary properties: it can slice through metal as though it were mud and soil; it can cut a single strand of hair placed on the blade; it is resistant to blood stains. When the hooligan Niu Er challenges Yang Zhi to demonstrate the saber's properties, Yang cuts through a stack of metal coins with the saber. Following that, when Yang Zhi places a strand of hair on the blade and blows, the hair is sliced into two. Niu Er then insists that Yang Zhi kills a man with the saber to prove that the blade will not have any blood stains. Yang Zhi refuses and eventually kills Niu Er by accident during the ensuing scuffle.
- List of Water Margin minor characters#Yang Zhi's story for a list of supporting minor characters from Yang Zhi's story.
- (Chinese) Li, Mengxia. 108 Heroes from the Water Margin, page 35. 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, pages 56, 67, 74, 76–77, and 93. KOEI, 1989.
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- Miyamotois, Yoko. Water Margin: Chinese Robin Hood and His Bandits.
- Keffer, David. Outlaws of the Marsh.