Lin Chong

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Lin Chong
Water Margin character
Yoshitoshi-Lin Chong.jpg
Lin Chong in an 1886 block print by Yoshitoshi
First appearance Chapter 7
Nickname "Panther Head"
Also known as
  • "Instructor Lin"
  • "Little Zhang Fei"
Rank 6th, Majestic Star (天雄星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Right General of the Five Tiger Generals of Liangshan
Origin Lance instructor of the 800,000 Imperial Guards
Ancestral home / Place of origin Dongjing (present-day Kaifeng, Henan)
Weapon 8-foot-long (2.4 m) Snake Spear (丈八蛇矛); Pudao (朴刀)
Simplified Chinese 林冲
Traditional Chinese 林沖
Pinyin Lín Chōng
Wade–Giles Lin Ch'ung

Lin Chong is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature. He ranks 6th among the 36 Heavenly Spirits, the first third of the 108 Liangshan heroes, and is nicknamed "Panther Head". Some other books say he is a former student of Zhou Tong, who likely lived in the early 10th century.


Lin Chong resembles Zhang Fei in appearance, a renowned fighter in the Three Kingdom period (220 - 280). He is over six chi tall, with glaring eyes and a head like a panther's. He is thus nicknamed "Panther Head". Before becoming an outlaw, Lin Chong was a martial arts instructor of the Imperial Guards in Dongjing (東京; present-day Kaifeng, Henan), the national capital.

Framed and exiled[edit]

Lin Chong meets Lu Zhishen one day in the garden that the latter looks after, while accompanying his wife to the temple which owns the garden. The two become sworn brothers, having long heard of each other's name. Lin Chong's wife catches the eye of Gao Yanei, the lecherous foster son of Grand Marshal Gao Qiu, while praying in the temple. Gao Yanei wants to molest Lin Chong's wife, but Lin appears in the nick of time and stops him. But Lin Chong dare not lodge a complaint after that, believing avoidance of conflict is the best policy. But Gao Yanei has become obsessed with Lin Chong's wife and wants to have her for himself. He enlists the help of Lin Chong's friend Lu Qian, who helps him distract Lin Chong by asking him out for drinks. Gao Yanei then tricks Lin Chong's wife to Lu Qian's house and tries to rape her there. Lin's wife's maid servant alerts Lin Chong in time and he rushes to Lu's house and saves his wife. Gao Yanei escapes in panic.

Gao Yanei is adamant to have Lin Chong's wife so he asks his foster father for help. Knowing that Lin Chong likes good weapons, Gao Qiu orders one of his men to take a precious super-sharp sabre that he owns and pose as a sabre seller to trick Lin into buying it. He then requests Lin's presence in his residence under the pretext of wanting to see the saber. Lin Chong is tricked into entering the White Tiger Hall (白虎節堂) carrying the weapon. The hall is a chamber where top-secret military meetings are held, and weapons are not permitted there. Lin Chong has thus violated the law by taking a weapon into the hall and is arrested on suspicion of attempting to assassinate Gao Qiu.

Lin Chong is tattooed on the face and exiled to Cangzhou. Before he leaves for Cangzhou, he insists on divorce from his wife, wanting her to get another husband who could protect her from Gao Yanei. Gao Qiu bribes the guards Dong Chao and Xue Ba, who are assigned to escort Lin Chong to Cangzhou, to kill him along the way. When the three put up in an inn, the guards trick Lin Chong into washing his feet in boiling water, causing his feet to become sore and blistered. Lin Chong is thus made entirely incapable of defending himself. But Lu Zhishen has secretly followed them. He emerges to save Lin Chong in Wild Boar Forest, wielding his hefty Buddhist staff, just when the guards are about to kill Lin Chong after binding him to a tree. Lin Chong persuades Lu Zhishen not to kill the guards, saying that they are just minions who have no choice but to follow orders. Lu Zhishen then escorts the three to Cangzhou. When the destination is close, he gives the guards a display of his strength by knocking down a tree with his Buddhist staff. He bids farewell to Lin Chong and returns to Dongjing. Fearful for their lives, the guards finish the journey without causing further problems. While in Cangzhou, Lin Chong meets and befriends nobleman Chai Jin, who provides him with silver to bribe the jailers in the prison into making his life in jail not so difficult. However, Gao Qiu is unhappy that Lin Chong is not dead and his wife is still harbouring hope that her husband would return, so he sends Lu Qian and his house steward Fu An to Cangzhou to do him in.

Burning of the fodder depot[edit]

Lu Qian bribes the chief warden and a jailer to assign Lin Chong to look after a fodder depot. The warden tells Lin Chong that it is a privileged assignment awarded to him out of respect for Chai Jin. On the night Lin Chong has taken up the new duty in the depot, Lu Qian, Fu An and the jailer set fire to the place, believing he could not escape from the inferno. However, Lin Chong is not harmed as he has earlier gone outdoor into the falling snow to an inn to buy wine. When he returned, he found his hut in the depot has collapsed under the heavy snowfall. So he took shelter in a nearby temple devoted to the mountain god that he had spotted. When Lin Chong hears voices outside the temple and recognises Lu Qian's voice, he finally snaps and rushes out to kill all the three. After that, he offers the heads as sacrifices to the mountain god. He then flees from the depot. While trudging in the snow, he comes upon a house. In a foul mood he snatches away the wine from the men inside. The men later find Lin Chong drunk in the snow, bind him up and take him back to a manor. It turns out that it is one of Chai Jin's residences.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

Chai Jin suggests that Lin Chong join the outlaws at Liangshan Marsh and writes a recommendation letter for him to personally hand over to Wang Lun, the chief of Liangshan. Lin Chong comes to a tavern which is actually an outpost of Liangshan managed by Zhu Gui. Zhu Gui ushers him to the stronghold through the falling snow. But Wang Lun is selfish and fears that Lin Chong would usurp his position, since he and his two assistants Du Qian and Song Wan are no match for Lin. He tries to send Lin Chong away with gifts, but Lin protests strongly that he has nowhere else to go. Wang Lun agrees to let Lin Chong join Liangshan if he can kill a man and present his head within three days as a form of membership pledge. Lin Chong could not capture anyone who passed by Liangshan on the first two days, but meets Yang Zhi on the third day and fights with him. Wang Lun appears and stops the fight. He is impressed with Yang Zhi's skill and suggests Yang join Liangshan, seeing him as a good counterweight to Lin Chong. But Yang refuses and leaves. Wang Lun eventually allows Lin Chong to join Liangshan as the No. 4 leader.

When Chao Gai and his six co-robbers come to Liangshan fleeing from arrest for having seized valuables meant to be birthday presents for the Grand Tutor Cai Jing, Wang Lun again feels threatened. He tries to send them away with gifts and by using the same excuse he had used on Lin Chong earlier. He fears them even more because of their number and the gravity of their crime, which would make Liangshan more notorious in the eyes of the government. Hearing Wang Lun's same excuse why he could not admit the group, Lin Chong feels again frustrated. Egged on by Wu Yong, he draws sword and kills Wang Lun. Chao Gai is then elected as the new chief. Lin Chong takes the fourth position after Wu Yong and Gongsun Sheng. He then sends men to Dongjing for news on his wife, and is distraught to learn that she had hanged herself, finding it impossible to put up with Gao Yanei's harassments.

Lin Chong is appointed one of the Five Tiger Generals of the Liangshan cavalry after the 108 stars came together in what is called the Grand Assembly. He is one of the best and most trusted warriors among the chieftains. Cool-headed and upright, he is likely more loved than most of the other heroes, including Song Jiang, by readers. His easy capture of Hu Sanniang when she came very close to seizing Song Jiang in a horseback pursuit is one of his glorious performances. He could beat most of the top enemy generals with ease.


When Gao Qiu personally leads a force to attack the Lianshan band, he is captured himself after a string of defeats. Unlike what is told in other stories that issued from Water Margin, in the original tale Lin Chong did not seek vengeance on a captured Gao Qiu. Instead, Lin Chong and Yang Zhi, who has also been wronged by Gao Qiu, are said to have long come to believe, before the capture of Gao, that their ill fates are pre-determinded. In the 120-chapter version of Water Margin, the two are said to simply glare at Gao Qiu as he is escorted into Liangshan's banquet hall after his capture. But the earlier 100-chapter version does not even mention the reaction of either. Song Jiang treats Gao Qiu as an honoured guest and releases him in hopes that he will appeal for amnesty from the emperor on behalf of Liangshan.

After the Liangshan outlaws finally obtain amnesty, they are sent on expeditions against the Liao invaders and the rebel forces of Tian Hu, Wang Qing, and Fang La. Lin Chong follows the heroes on their campaigns and makes numerous contributions by defeating several of the best enemy warriors. Just when they are about to return to the capital after the defeat of Fang La, Lin Chong is stricken by paralysis. He dies six months later under the care of Wu Song in Liuhe Temple in Hangzhou, where Lu Zhishen has died six months earlier.

Cultural references[edit]

The episodes before Lin Chong becomes an outlaw are often re-told in Beijing opera. 'Wild Boar Forest' (Chinese: 野猪林; pinyin: Yě Zhū Lín), which is about Lu Zhishen's rescue of Lin Chong in a forest, and "Fleeing by Night" , which is about the burning of the depot and Lin Chong's enraged killing of Lu Qian and two others, are two often-adapted parts.

See also[edit]