Fang La

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Fang La
Born Unknown
She County, Anhui
Died 1121
Kaifeng, Henan
Occupation Rebel leader
Map showing Fang La's rebellion.

Fang La (died 1121) was a Chinese rebel leader who led an uprising against the Song dynasty. In the classical novel Water Margin, he is fictionalised as one of the primary antagonists and nemeses of the 108 Stars of Destiny. He is sometimes associated with Manichaeism but was most likely not a follower of the religion.[1]


Fang La was from Shezhou, which is roughly present-day She County, Anhui. However, other sources claimed that he was from Qingxi County (清溪縣), which is present-day Chun'an County, Zhejiang. In 1120, he led an uprising against the Song Empire in Qixian Village (七賢村), Shezhou. Others claimed that he started the rebellion in Wannian District (萬年鄉), Chun'an County. Fang La's forces captured Hangzhou and subsequently took control over parts of present-day Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, with a total of 52 counties and six prefectures.

In 1121, the Song government sent a general, Wang Yuan (王淵), to lead an army to crush the rebellion. Wang Yuan's subordinate, Han Shizhong, disguised himself, infiltrated Qingxi County and captured Fang La. Later, Xin Xingzong (辛興宗), the Song general defending Zhongzhou (忠州), led his troops to block Qingxi County's exit route and regained control of the county. Fang La and 52 of his subordinates were captured and escorted by the general Tong Guan to the imperial capital, Kaifeng. Four months later, Fang La was found guilty of treason and executed in Kaifeng.

By 1132–1133 or later, the rebellion was linked to Manichaeism. Though not originally connected, in the public and historical conscience it became confused with the Taizhou unrest of April–June 1121, where Manichaeism was widespread.[2]

In Water Margin[edit]

Fang La
Water Margin character
First appearance Chapter 110
Emperor of Fang La forces
Ancestral home / Place of origin Shezhou
Simplified Chinese 方腊
Traditional Chinese 方臘
Pinyin Fāng Là
Wade–Giles Fang La

The classical novel Water Margin presents a semi-fictional account of Fang La and his battle with the Liangshan outlaws. After granting the outlaws amnesty, Emperor Huizong sends them on military campaigns to suppress rebel forces within the Song Empire and counter invaders from the Liao Empire in the north. Fang La is one of the rebel leaders based in the Jiangnan region.

Whilst the Liangshan forces suffered hardly any casualties in the campaigns against the Liao Empire and the rebel forces of Tian Hu and Wang Qing, the campaign against Fang La proved to be calamitous. 59 of the original 108 heroes were killed in action, mostly by Fang La's warriors, whose combat skills and abilities rival the best of Liangshan. Unlike the other rebels who lack good leadership and experience, Fang La has established a solid foundation in the Jiangnan region with many capable people serving under him.

Fang La is eventually captured by the Liangshan heroes after an elaborate infiltration scheme involving Chai Jin and Yan Qing. During his escape attempt, he is defeated by Lu Zhishen and escorted back to Kaifeng by imperial troops under Tong Guan. Four months later, Fang La is found guilty of treason and executed by slow slicing.

Fang La forces[edit]


  • Fang Tianding (方天定) is Fang La's eldest son and crown prince.
  • Fang Jinzhi (方金芝) is Fang La's daughter and princess. She marries Ke Yin (Chai Jin in undercover). She commits suicide by hanging herself after the fall of Fang La's palace in the final battle.
  • Fang Jie (方傑) is a grandson of Fang La's uncle.

Premiers, civilian officials, magicians[edit]

  • Lou Minzhong (婁敏中) is the left premier of Fang La's kingdom. Originally a teacher, Lou Minzhong supported Fang La during his early stages of rebellion and rose through the ranks. He refers Ke Yin (Chai Jin in undercover) to Fang La after being pleased with Ke Yin's appearance, wisdom and personality. He kills Liangshan's Ruan Xiaowu after discovering Ruan Xiaowu's undercover identity as a mole attempting to sabotage Fang La's navy. He commits suicide after Fang La's fortress was taken by the Song army in the final battle.
  • Zu Shiyuan (祖世遠) is the right premier of Fang La's kingdom. He suggests with Shi Bao and Deng Yuanjue to Fang La to send reinforcements to Muzhou when it is besieged by Liangshan forces, as it is a key barrier to Fang La's palace. However, Fang La cannot relocate any soldiers and refuses to send his palace guards to help defend Muzhou. This resulted in the fall of Muzhou and Zu Shiyuan's capture by the Liangshan heroes.
  • Bao Daoyi (包道乙) is a Taoist magician serving under Fang La.
  • Zheng Biao (鄭彪) is Bao Daoyi's apprentice.
  • Deng Yuanjue (鄧元覺) is Fang La's royal adviser.
  • Wang Yin (王寅) is Fang La's secretary of military affairs.


  • Shi Bao (石寶) and deputies:
    • Wen Kerang (溫克讓)
    • Zhao Yi (趙毅)
    • Leng Gong (冷恭)
    • Wang Ren (王仁)
    • Zhang Daoyuan (張道原)
    • Wu Zhi (吳值)
    • Lian Ming (廉明)
    • Feng Yi (鳳儀)
  • Pang Wanchun (龐萬春) and deputies:
    • Lei Jiong (雷炯)
    • Ji Ji (計稷)
  • Li Tianrun (厲天閏) and deputies:
    • Zhang Tao (張韜) slays Liangshan's Dong Ping in an ambush when Dong Ping was distracted by Li Tianrun.
    • Li Tianyou (厲天佑)
    • Zhang Jian (張儉)
    • Yao Yi (姚義)
  • Si Xingfang (司行方) and deputies:
    • Xue Dounan (薛斗南)
    • Huang Ai (黃愛)
    • Xu Bai (徐白)
    • Mi Quan (米泉)
  • Lü Shinang (吕师囊) and deputies ("12 Deities of Jiangnan"):
    • Shen Gang (沈剛), from Fuzhou, is nicknamed "Heaven Supporting Deity" (擎天神).
    • Pan Wende (潘文得), from Shezhou, is nicknamed "Youyi Deity" (游奕神).
    • Ying Ming (應明), from Muzhou, is nicknamed "Armoured Deity" (遁甲神).
    • Xu Tong (徐統), from Mingzhou (present-day Ningbo), is nicknamed "Liuding Deity" (六丁神).
    • Zhang Jinren (張近仁), from Yuezhou, is nicknamed "Thunderbolt Deity" (霹靂神). He slays Liangshan's Peng Qi by sneaking up behind him when Peng Qi rides to fight Gao Keli to attempt to avenge for his fallen comrade Han Tao.
    • Shen Ze (沈澤), from Hangzhou, is nicknamed "Giant Deity" (巨靈神).
    • Zhao Yi (趙毅), from Huzhou, is nicknamed "Great White Deity" (太白神).
    • Gao Keli (高可立), from Xuanzhou (around present-day Xuanzhou District, Xuancheng, Anhui), is nicknamed "Taisui Deity" (太歲神). He kills Liangshan's Han Tao with an arrow when Han Tao was duelling with Zhang Jinren.
    • Fan Chou (范疇), from Changzhou, is nicknamed "Diaoke Deity" (吊客神).
    • Zhuo Wanli (卓萬裡), from Runzhou, is nicknamed "Yellow Flagpole Deity" (黃幡神).
    • He Tong (和潼), from Jiangzhou (江州; present-day Jiujiang, Jiangxi), is nicknamed "Leopard's Tail Deity" (豹尾神).
    • Shen Bian (沈抃), from Suzhou, is nicknamed "Death Deity" (喪門神).
  • Bai Qin (白欽) is one of Fang La's warriors. He fights with Lü Fang at Black Dragon Ridge. Both of them roll down the slope to their deaths after losing their balance at the edge of a cliff.
  • Guo Shiguang (郭世廣) is one of Fang La's generals. He fights with Xuan Zan and both of them perish together under Yinma Bridge in Suzhou.
  • Chao Zhong (晁中)
  • Tang Fengshi (湯逢士)
  • Wang Ji (王績)
  • Yuan Xing (元興)
  • Mao Di (茅迪)
  • Cui Yu (崔彧)
  • Su Jing (蘇涇)
  • Bei Yingkui (貝應夔)


  1. ^ Lieu, Samuel N.C. (1985). Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China. Manchester University Press. pp. 240–243. ISBN 0719010888. 
  2. ^ ter Haar, B.J. (1992). The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History (illustrated, reprint ed.). University of Hawaii Press. pp. 49–52. ISBN 0824822188.