Lu Zhishen

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Lu Zhishen
Water Margin character
Lu Zhishen Water Margin 2.jpg
Lu Zhishen uproots a willow tree
First appearance Chapter 3
Nickname "Flowery Monk"
Also known as
  • Lu Da
  • Major Lu
Rank 13th, Solitary Star (天孤星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Infantry leader of Liangshan
Origin Garrison major
Ancestral home / Place of origin Weizhou (around present-day Pingliang, Gansu)
Weapon Monk's spade, Dagger
Simplified Chinese 鲁智深
Traditional Chinese 魯智深
Pinyin Lǔ Zhìshēn
Wade–Giles Lu Chih-shen

Lu Zhishen, nicknamed "Flowery Monk", is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He is the lead character in the first major story cycle of the novel, in which he epitomises loyalty, strength and justice, but also brashness. He ranks 13th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroic characters.

One folktale represents him as a sworn brother of Zhou Tong.[1]

Becoming a monk[edit]

Painted mural depiction of Lu Zhishen at the Summer Palace, 19th century.

Lu Zhishen's original name was "Lu Da". He is described to have a round face, big ears, a straight nose, a squarish mouth, and a beard which overshadows his face. He is first introduced in the novel as a garrison major in Weizhou (渭州; around present-day Pingliang, Gansu), where he meets Shi Jin in an inn. While they are having drinks, they overhear Jin Cuilian, a singer, crying over her plight. She and her father are bullied by a certain Butcher Zheng, who refuses to let them leave Weizhou until they have paid a "debt" owed to him. After helping Jin and her father escape, Lu Da goes to Butcher Zheng's stall and provokes the butcher to fight him. He accidentally kills the butcher after punching him thrice in the head, and then flees from Weizhou to avoid arrest. While on the run, he encounters Jin Cuilian's father, who tells him that his daughter has married a wealthy squire. Lu Da takes shelter in the squire's manor for a while. The squire introduces him to the abbot of Manjusri Monastery on Mount Wutai. Lu Da becomes a monk in the monastery and is given the Buddhist name "Zhishen", which means "sagacious". He is also nicknamed "Flowery Monk" because of the flowery tattoos which adorn his upper body.

After becoming a monk, Lu Zhishen feels unaccustomed to his new life of austerity and breaks the Buddhist code of abstinence from meat and wine on a few occasions. In his drunken rage, he damages the monastery and beats up his fellow monks, who try to stop him. The abbot can no longer tolerate his behaviour so he sends him away to the Great Minister's Temple in Dongjing (東京; present-day Kaifeng, Henan).

Lu Zhishen wields a monk's spade and a dagger as his weapons. He told the blacksmith that he wanted a monk's spade weighing 100 jin, but the blacksmith said that the spade would not be handy if it is too heavy, so Lu agreed to have it at 62 jin.

Lu Zhishen in an 1887 woodblock print by Yoshitoshi.

Becoming sworn brothers with Lin Chong[edit]

On his journey, Lu Zhishen dissuades "Little Tyrant" Zhou Tong from marrying Squire Liu's daughter. He meets Shi Jin again and teams up with him to kill the evil bandits Cui Daocheng and Qiu Xiaoyi. Upon reaching his destination, Lu Zhishen is placed in charge of maintaining the garden in the temple. He subdues a group of hooligans who often stole vegetables from the garden and earns their admiration and respect. He also performs a superhuman feat by uprooting a willow tree with his brute strength and becomes famous for it. He meets Lin Chong, a martial arts instructor of the Imperial Guards, and they become sworn brothers. When Lin Chong is framed and exiled to Cangzhou, Lu Zhishen secretly follows him and protects him from the guards who have been bribed to kill him along the way.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

Later, Lu Zhishen passes by Cross Slope and befriends Sun Erniang and Zhang Qing. He goes to Mount Twin Dragons to take refuge under Deng Long but is refused. He joins forces with Yang Zhi and Cao Zheng to kill Deng Long and seize control of his outlaw stronghold. They join the outlaw band at Liangshan Marsh after defeating government forces at the battle of Qingzhou (in present-day Shandong).

Lu Zhishen goes to Huayin County (華陰縣; present-day Huayin, Weinan, Shaanxi) to invite Shi Jin to join the Liangshan band, but learns that Shi has been captured by Prefect He after failing to assassinate the corrupt official. He tries to break into the prison to rescue Shi Jin, but falls into a trap and is captured as well. The Liangshan outlaws lure Prefect He out of the city, kill him, break into the city, and save Shi Jin and Lu Zhishen. Shi Jin and the other outlaws in Huayin County join the Liangshan band. Lu Zhishen becomes one of the leaders of the Liangshan infantry after the Grand Assembly of the 108 Liangshan heroes. He follows the heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after they are granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong. He captures the rebel leader Fang La, who is trying to escape after his defeat by the Liangshan forces.


Lu Zhishen is one of the few survivors from Liangshan after the campaigns, and his unwitting capture of Fang La officially ends the punitive expedition against the rebel leader. Despite Song Jiang's pleas, Lu Zhishen refuses to take up an official post or be ordained as an abbot in a monastery. He and Wu Song decide to remain in Liuhe Pagoda in Hangzhou. On his first night in the pagoda, Lu Zhishen is awakened by the sudden crashing of tides on the nearby Qiantang River. He then comes to understand the meaning of the first half of a prophecy told to him by the old abbot. The entire prophecy goes as follows:

Capture Xia when you meet him; 逢夏而擒,
Seize La when you encounter him. 遇臘而執。
When you hear the tide, complete the circle; 聽潮而圓,
When you see the faithful, enter into silence. 見信而寂。

Lu Zhishen, recalling that he has captured both Fang La and his general Xiahou Cheng, now learns that the tide is called "Old Faithful". The monks further relate to him that in Buddhist jargon, the characters for "completing the circle" (圓) and "entering into silence" (寂) mean "to die" when combined. Realising at that moment that his death is imminent, Lu Zhishen bathes and lights fragrant incense. He then composes an ode and calls for Song Jiang. Sitting cross-legged on a tuffet, he dies before Song Jiang arrives. Song Jiang picks up Lu Zhishen's ode, which reads:

In my life I never cultivated goodness, 平生不修善果,
Relishing only murder and arson. 只愛殺人放火。
Suddenly my golden shackles have been opened; 忽地頓開金枷,
Here my jade locks have been pulled asunder. 這裡指斷玉鎖。
Alas! Hereby the river tide cometh,; 咦!錢塘江上潮信來,
Now I finally realise that I am what I am! 今日方知我是我。

Described as a monk who never read the scriptures and only knew slaughter, Lu Zhishen ends his life as an enlightened Buddha. He is later eulogised and cremated with all the honours befitting one of his accorded status.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hsia, C.T. (2004). C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press. pp. 448–449. ISBN 0231129904. , footnote #31.