Dai Zong

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Dai Zong
Water Margin character
First appearanceChapter 38
Nickname"Magic Traveller"
Rank20th, Speed Star (天速星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Scouting chief of Liangshan
OriginPrison warden
Simplified Chinese戴宗
Traditional Chinese戴宗
PinyinDài Zōng
Wade–GilesTai Tsung

Dai Zong is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature. Nicknamed "Magic Traveller", he ranks 20th among the 36 Heavenly Spirits, the first third of the 108 Stars of Destiny.


The novel describes Dai Zong as a man with a broad face, squarish mouth and lean body. A practitioner of Taoist magical arts, he can travel on foot over long distances at superhuman speed by securing to his legs a pair of magic talismans, which increase his travelling speed to about 800 li in a day. Because of his special ability, he earns himself the nickname "Magic Traveller".

Meeting Song Jiang[edit]

Dai Zong is first introduced in the novel as the chief warden of a prison camp for exiled convicts in Jiangzhou (江州; present-day Jiujiang, Jiangxi). He is a close friend of Wu Yong, the strategist of the outlaw band at Liangshan Marsh.

When Song Jiang is exiled to Jiangzhou for killing Yan Poxi, he passes by Liangshan Marsh and meets his outlaw friends. During this time, Wu Yong writes a letter and asks Song Jiang to pass it to Dai Zong when he reaches Jiangzhou. In Jiangzhou, after reading Wu Yong's letter, Dai Zong realises Song Jiang's true identity – a hero famous for his chivalry and generosity – and ensures that Song Jiang leads a comfortable life in prison. Song Jiang also befriends Dai Zong's subordinate, Li Kui.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

Song Jiang later runs into trouble in Jiangzhou after reading a seditious poem while he was drunk. When Cai Jiu, the local governor, orders Song Jiang to be arrested and brought before him, Dai Zong suggests to Song Jiang to behave like a lunatic to fool Cai Jiu. However, Cai Jiu's assistant Huang Wenbing notices that Song Jiang is pretending to be insane so he suggests to Cai Jiu to use torture to force Song Jiang to confess. Song Jiang, unable to withstand torture, eventually admits that he wrote the seditious poem.

As Cai Jiu cannot decide what to do with Song Jiang, he writes to his father, the Imperial Tutor Cai Jing, to seek advice, and orders Dai Zong to deliver the letter. Dai Zong brings the letter to Liangshan instead to seek help. At Liangshan, Wu Yong recruits Xiao Rang and Jin Dajian to forge a letter in Cai Jing's name ordering Cai Jiu to send Song Jiang to the imperial capital, Dongjing (東京; present-day Kaifeng, Henan), for further action. The outlaws intend to ambush the convoy along the way and rescue Song Jiang.

Cai Jiu nearly falls for the ruse upon reading the forged letter. However, Huang Wenbing spots a mistake in the seal stamped on the letter and realises that the letter is fake after scrutinising it. A furious Cai Jiu then orders Dai Zong to be arrested, beaten up, and thrown into prison. At Huang Wenbing's urging, Cai Jiu sentences both Song Jiang and Dai Zong to death.

In the meantime, after Dai Zong left Liangshan, Wu Yong had realised the mistake in the letter so he had already made plans for the Liangshan outlaws to go to Jiangzhou to save Song Jiang and Dai Zong. In Jiangzhou, just as Song Jiang and Dai Zong are about to be beheaded in public, the Liangshan outlaws show up, storm the execution ground and save them. Dai Zong follows the outlaws back to Liangshan and joins the outlaw band.

Campaigns and death[edit]

During his time in Liangshan, Dai Zong serves the outlaw band well with his special ability, which saved the day in a number of urgent and desperate situations. For example, he once travels to Jizhou (薊州; present-day Ji County, Tianjin) to find Liangshan's magician Gongsun Sheng and bring him to Gaotangzhou (高唐州; around present-day Gaotang County, Shandong) to deal with the corrupt governor Gao Lian, who also knows Taoist sorcery. Due to Gongsun Sheng's timely arrival, the Liangshan outlaws manage to defeat Gao Lian and the government forces, break into Gaotangzhou, and save their ally Chai Jin, whose life was hanging in the balance. Another example is when Dai Zong brings the physician An Daoquan back to Liangshan in time to cure Song Jiang of a deadly tumour.

Following the Grand Assembly of the 108 Stars of Destiny, Dai Zong becomes the chief of Liangshan's scouting team. He is responsible for gathering intelligence on Liangshan's enemies and providing timely updates. He follows the Liangshan heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces on Song territory after they received amnesty from Emperor Huizong.

Dai Zong is one of the few Liangshan heroes who survive all the campaigns, particularly the final one against Fang La's rebel forces. To honour Dai Zong for his service to the Song Empire during the campaigns, Emperor Huizong appoints him as an official in Yanzhou (兗州; around present-day Jining, Shandong). However, Dai Zong resigns after holding office for a while and settles in a Taoist temple, where he leads a reclusive life for a few months before his death.


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