Lu Zhishen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lu Zhishen
Water Margin character
Lu Zhishen Water Margin 2.jpg
Lu Zhishen uproots a willow tree
First appearanceChapter 3
Nickname"Flowery Monk"
Also known as
  • Lu Da
  • Major Lu
Rank13th, Solitary Star (天孤星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Infantry leader of Liangshan
OriginGarrison major
Ancestral home / Place of originWeizhou (around present-day Pingliang, Gansu)
WeaponMonk's spade, Dagger
Simplified Chinese鲁智深
Traditional Chinese魯智深
PinyinLǔ Zhìshēn
Wade–GilesLu Chih-shen

Lu Zhishen is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature. He is the lead character in the first segment of the novel, which spans about six chapters. Nicknamed "Flowery Monk", he ranks 13th among the 36 Heavenly Spirits, the first third of the 108 Stars of Destiny.

One folk tale says that he is a sworn brother of the martial artist Zhou Tong, who trained the Song dynasty general Yue Fei in archery.[1]


Mural of Lu Zhishen at the Summer Palace, 19th century.

Lu Zhishen is originally named Lu Da (魯達). The novel describes him as a big-sized man with a round face, big ears, a straight nose, a squarish mouth, and a beard which nearly covers his whole face. He serves as a garrison major in Weizhou (渭州; around present-day Pingliang, Gansu), where he meets and befriends Shi Jin and Li Zhong.

While the three men are drinking in a tavern, they overhear the singer Jin Cuilian crying over her plight. A wealthy butcher, known as Butcher Zheng, had tried to exploit Jin Cuilian and her father by offering to pay for her deceased mother's funeral expenses in exchange for her becoming his concubine. However, after Zheng's wife gets upset at her husband taking a concubine and pressures him to force Jin Cuilian out of their home. After that, Zheng feels that he has made a huge loss so he forces Jin Cuilian and her father to pay him back at an exorbitant interest rate, and refuses to allow them to leave Weizhou until they fully paid the debt.

After hearing Jin Cuilian's story, Lu Da gives her and her father some money and helps them get out of Weizhou safely. He then goes to Zheng's stall to confront him and teach him a lesson. He tries to provoke Zheng by making unreasonable orders until the butcher loses patience and attacks him with a cleaver. Lu Da easily knocks him down and unintentionally kills him with three powerful punches to the face. After seeing that the butcher is dead, Lu Da quickly flees from Weizhou to evade arrest.

Becoming a monk[edit]

Lu Zhishen in an 1887 woodblock print by Yoshitoshi.

Along the way, he encounters Jin Cuilian's father, who tells him that his daughter has married a certain Squire Zhao. The squire offers Lu Da temporary shelter in his manor and recommends him to be a Buddhist monk at Manjusri Monastery on Mount Wutai. The abbot accepts Lu Da and gives him the name "Zhishen", which means "sagacious"; Lu Da is henceforth known as "Lu Zhishen". He also earns himself the nickname "Flowery Monk" because his upper body is adorned with flower tattoos.

Lu Zhishen soon gets tired of monastic life, so one day he breaks his vows by consuming alcohol. When he returns to the monastery in his drunken state, the monks try to stop him from entering but he beats them up in a drunken rage. After he becomes sober, the abbot admonishes him for his conduct but promises to give him another chance.

After spending some time in the monastery, Lu Zhishen gets bored again so he goes to the nearby town and asks a blacksmith to forge a monk's staff weighing 62 jin and a dagger for him. He goes into the tavern and has a good time feasting on meat and consuming alcohol until he gets drunk. When the monks see that Lu Zhishen has gotten himself drunk again, they immediately shut the doors on him. However, in his drunken rage, he manages to force his way in and wreak havoc in the monastery by smashing a jingang statue and beating up the monks who try to stop him. This time, the abbot has no choice but to send Lu Zhishen away to the Great Minister's Temple in the imperial capital, Dongjing. Along the way, he picks up the weapons he ordered from the blacksmith.

Encounter with Zhou Tong and Li Zhong[edit]

On his journey to Dongjing, Lu Zhishen passes by Plum Blossom Village and stays overnight at Squire Liu's manor. The squire tells him that Zhou Tong, a bandit leader from the nearby Mount Plum Blossom, wants to marry his daughter even though he does not agree to it. Lu Zhishen lies to the squire that he can use Buddhist teachings to persuade the bandit to give up on marrying his daughter. When Zhou Tong shows up and enters the bride's room in the dark, Lu Zhishen ambushes him and gives him a good beating. Zhou Tong escapes and asks his co-leader Li Zhong to help him take revenge against the monk. Li Zhong is surprised to see that the monk is actually Lu Da, whom he befriended earlier in Weizhou.

After making peace and convincing Zhou Tong to give up on marrying Squire Liu's daughter, Lu Zhishen spends a few days at Zhou Tong and Li Zhong's bandit stronghold before leaving and continuing on his journey. He meets Shi Jin again during his journey and teams up with him to defeat two villains disguised as a Buddhist monk and Taoist priest respectively.

Meeting Lin Chong[edit]

After Lu Zhishen reaches the Great Minister's Temple in Dongjing, the abbot assigns him to look after a vegetable plot in the temple. During this time, Lu Zhishen defeats and subdues a group of hooligans trying to steal vegetables from the plot and earns their respect. He becomes famous after uprooting a willow tree with his brute strength.

One day, Lu Zhishen meets Lin Chong by chance and becomes sworn brothers with him. When Lin Chong is framed and exiled to Cangzhou, Lu Zhishen secretly follows him and saves him when his escorts are about to murder him in Wild Boar Forest. He then ensures that Lin Chong makes it safely to Cangzhou before smashing down a tree with a single strike to warn the escorts to not try anything funny on Lin Chong. He then returns to Dongjing.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

Lu Zhishen has no choice but to leave Dongjing because by saving Lin Chong, he had offended Grand Marshal Gao Qiu, who bribed the escorts to murder Lin Chong. He passes by Cross Slope, where he meets and befriends the couple Sun Erniang and Zhang Qing, who suggest to him to join the outlaw band on Mount Twin Dragons. Deng Long, the outlaw chief, denies Lu Zhishen entry and barricades the only way into the stronghold. Lu Zhishen encounters Yang Zhi and Cao Zheng and team up with them to trick Deng Long into letting them enter the stronghold. The three men overpower and kill Deng Long and seize control of the stronghold.

When Huyan Zhuo flees to Qingzhou (in present-day Shandong) after his defeat by the Liangshan outlaws, the local governor Murong Yanda orders him to deal with the outlaws at Mount White Tiger, Mount Plum Blossom and Mount Twin Dragons as a means of redeeming himself. Unable to hold up against Huyan Zhuo's attacks, the outlaws from the three mountains turn to the outlaw band at Liangshan for help. All the outlaws combine forces and succeed in defeating Huyan Zhuo and seizing control of Qingzhou. After Huyan Zhuo surrenders and joins Liangshan, Lu Zhishen and the other outlaws from the three mountains join the Liangshan outlaw band.

Life at Liangshan[edit]

Lu Zhishen later goes to Huayin County to invite Shi Jin and the outlaws at Mount Shaohua to join the Liangshan outlaw band. At Mount Shaohua, he learns that Shi Jin has been captured by Prefect He, a local official, after attempting to save a woman who has been forced to become the prefect's concubine. Lu Zhishen tries to rescue Shi Jin but falls into a trap and gets captured as well. The outlaws at Mount Shaohua turn to Liangshan for help. The Liangshan outlaws rush to Huayin County, lure Prefect He out of the city and kill him, and break into the city and save Lu Zhishen and Shi Jin. Shi Jin and the outlaws from Mount Shaohua then join the Liangshan outlaw band.

Lu Zhishen becomes one of Liangshan's infantry leaders after the 108 Stars of Destiny come together in what is called the Grand Assembly. He is one of the few who strongly object to Song Jiang's decision to seek amnesty from Emperor Huizong for all the Liangshan outlaws. However, after the emperor grants them amnesty, Lu Zhishen still accompanies the Liangshan heroes on the military campaigns against Liao invaders and rebel forces as a form of service to the Song Empire. He gains the top credit during the campaign against the rebel forces of Fang La by capturing the rebel leader in battle.


When the surviving Liangshan heroes prepare to return to the imperial capital Dongjing to report their victory, Lu Zhishen refuses to join them and remains in Liuhe Pagoda in Hangzhou. On his first night in the pagoda, the sounds of the tidal bore of the nearby Qiantang River awaken him from his sleep and make him realise the meaning of a prophecy he previously heard from the abbot of the monastery on Mount Wutai. The prophecy goes:

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 silence. 見信而寂。

While the first two lines foretell his capture of Fang La and Fang La's subordinate Xiahou Cheng, the last two are also prognostic of the Qiantang River's tidal bore, which shows up faithfully every year on the 18th day of the 8th month. The monks tell Lu Zhishen that in Buddhist jargon, the term yuan ji – made up of yuan (圓; "complete the circle") and ji (寂; "enter silence") – means death. Realising that it is time for him to die, Lu Zhishen bathes and lights fragrant incense. He then composes an ode and calls for Song Jiang, but dies sitting cross-legged on a zafu before Song Jiang shows up. Song Jiang picks up the 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。

After confessing that he is a monk who has never read the scriptures and instead indulged in killing, Lu Zhishen attains enlightenment just before his death. He is eulogised and given due honours at his funeral befitting that of an enlightened Buddhist monk.

See also[edit]


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