Gao Qiu

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Gao Qiu
Traditional Chinese 高俅
Simplified Chinese 高俅

Gao Qiu (died 1126) was a Chinese government official who lived in the Song dynasty and served in the court of Emperor Huizong. In the classical novel Water Margin, he is fictionalised as one of the primary antagonists and nemeses of the 108 Liangshan outlaws.


According to the Chinese historical text Huizhulu (揮麈錄) by the Song dynasty scholar Wang Mingqing, Gao Qiu was the son of Gao Dunfu (高敦復) and was from Kaifeng. He had two brothers and four sons.

Gao Qiu used to be a servant of the poet and statesman Su Shi (Song Dongpo) before moving on to serve the artist Wang Shen.[1] During the reign of Emperor Huizong, Gao Qiu participated in battles under Liu Zhongwu's command and followed Lin Shu on a diplomatic mission to the Khitan-led Liao dynasty. As he was favoured by Emperor Huizong, Gao Qiu's position in politics and the military rose until he became a Grand Marshal (太尉).

After the fall of Emperor Huizong (abdicated on 18 January 1126), Gao Qiu's influence in the imperial court decreased and he died of illness in 1126.[citation needed]

In Water Margin[edit]

Gao Qiu
Water Margin character
First appearance Chapter 1
Nickname "High Ball"
Grand Marshal of the Song dynasty
Origin Street rascal
Ancestral home / Place of origin Kaifeng, Henan
Simplified Chinese 高俅
Traditional Chinese 高俅
Pinyin Gāo Qiú
Wade–Giles Kao Chiu

Early life and rise to prominence[edit]

Gao Qiu is first introduced in the novel as a street rascal. He specialises in playing qiqiu (氣毬; ancient Chinese football) and by coincidence, he meets Prince Duan, the younger brother of Emperor Zhezong. Prince Duan is also interested in qiqiu and he is deeply impressed by Gao Qiu's talent that he invites Gao to serve him in his residence and play qiqiu with him.

After the death of Emperor Zhezong, Prince Duan ascends to the throne as Emperor Huizong and Gao Qiu is promoted to high official ranks by the emperor. Gao Qiu eventually becomes a Grand Marshal, who wields great power and commands the military. However, the imperial court becomes increasingly corrupt with the presence of Gao Qiu, who uses his influence to promote nepotism and bring his supporters into the government.

Lin Chong's story[edit]

Gao Qiu's villainy is exhibited in the story of Lin Chong, one of the 108 Liangshan outlaws and protagonists of the story. Gao Qiu's foster son, Gao Yanei, is attracted to Lin Chong's wife and attempts to seize her for himself, but his plans were foiled by Lin Chong. Gao Yanei collaborates with his foster father to frame Lin Chong for attempting to assassinate a government official. Lin is convicted and sentenced to face-tattooing and exile to Cangzhou. Gao Qiu bribes the guards escorting Lin Chong into exile to kill Lin along the way, but fails when Lin's sworn brother Lu Zhishen saves him. Gao Qiu sends Lu Qian to Cangzhou later to bribe the prison officials there to kill Lin Chong, but Lin survives and becomes an outlaw at Liangshan Marsh. Lin Chong swears vengeance on Gao Qiu and vows to avenge his wife, who has committed suicide to prevent herself from being humiliated by Gao Yanei.

Rivalry with Liangshan[edit]

As the story progresses, more outlaws gather at Liangshan Marsh, with most of them forced to become outlaws due to corruption in the government. The outlaws pledge to "deliver justice on Heaven's behalf" and rid their country of evil and corruption. Gao Qiu's cousin Gao Lian, governor of Gaotangzhou (present-day Gaotang County, Liaocheng, Shandong), is an equally corrupt official like him. Gao Lian is killed by the outlaws after they attack Gaotangzhou to rescue Chai Jin, who had been wrongfully imprisoned by Gao Lian. Gao Qiu vows to avenge his cousin and he sees the Liangshan outlaws as a threat. Along with the Imperial Tutor Cai Jing and general Tong Guan, Gao Qiu constantly urges Emperor Huizong to send the imperial army to attack the outlaws.

The emperor sends the army to attack Liangshan five times, but the outlaws emerge victorious eventually each time, with some of the commanders, such as Huyan Zhuo and Guan Sheng, defecting over to join the outlaws. Gao Qiu takes command of the army during the fifth military campaign and he is captured by the outlaws after his defeat. Lin Chong and some of the outlaws want to kill Gao Qiu for revenge, but Song Jiang stops them, because he intends to use Gao to help the outlaws attain amnesty from the government.

Eventual fate of the Liangshan heroes[edit]

Gao Qiu is released by the outlaws after he promises to help them persuade Emperor Huizong to grant them amnesty, but goes back on his word. Eventually, the outlaws are granted amnesty by the emperor with help from other good officials. Emperor Huizong allows the Liangshan heroes to embark on military campaigns against the enemies of the Song Dynasty, including the Liao Dynasty and the rebel forces of Fang La, Tian Hu and Wang Qing. By the time the campaigns ended, nearly two thirds of the 108 Liangshan heroes have been killed in action.

A majority of the surviving heroes were granted official posts by Emperor Huizong in recognition of their contributions to the nation. However, Gao Qiu and the antagonists are dissatisfied with the heroes' fates and they conspire to eliminate Song Jiang and some of the other heroes. The story ends with the tragic dissolution of the heroes, who have dedicated themselves to their cause of "delivering justice on Heaven's behalf".


  1. ^ Franke, Herbert (1976), Sung Biographies: Painters, F. Steiner, p. 145