|Water Margin character|
|Nickname||"Tai Sui Who Stands His Ground"
|Rank||27th, Sword Star (天劍星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Navy leader of Liangshan|
|Ancestral home / Place of origin||Shijie Village (in present-day Liangshan County, Jining, Shandong)|
|First appearance||Chapter 15|
Ruan Xiao'er, also known as Ruan the Second, is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 27th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Tai Sui Who Stands His Ground".
The novel describes Ruan Xiao'er as a muscular man with a sharp face, a wide mouth, a cold gleam in his eyes and some yellow hair on his chest. He is the elder brother of Ruan Xiaowu and Ruan Xiaoqi. They live in Shijie Village (石碣村; in present-day Liangshan County, Jining, Shandong), where they earn a living by fishing and trading illegally on the river.
Becoming an outlaw
The Ruan brothers join Chao Gai, Wu Yong, Gongsun Sheng and Liu Tang in robbing the convoy of birthday gifts for the Imperial Tutor, Cai Jing. The seven men become wanted fugitives after the robbery. They flee to Liangshan Marsh to take refuge after defeating the soldiers sent to arrest them.
Wang Lun, the incompetent and selfish leader of the outlaw band on Liangshan, refuses to accept the seven men and tries to send them away with gifts. However, Wu Yong instigates Lin Chong to kill Wang Lun, and then Chao Gai is elected as the new chief of Liangshan. Ruan Xiao'er is ranked sixth among all the heroes present then.
Ruan Xiao'er becomes an active member of the Liangshan naval force and participates in several of the battles against the enemies of Liangshan. He makes a major contribution during the first imperial assault. The Ruan brothers sabotage enemy cannons and lure Ling Zhen into a trap on the river. They capsize his boat and capture him later. Ling Zhen is persuaded by Song Jiang to join Liangshan.
Campaigns and death
Ruan Xiao'er becomes one of the leaders of the Liangshan navy after the Grand Assembly of the 108 Stars of Destiny. After the outlaws are granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong, Ruan Xiao'er follows them on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and other rebel forces.
During the campaign against the rebel leader Fang La, Ruan Xiao'er is assigned to lead the attack on the enemy's naval base at Black Dragon Ridge (烏龍嶺; northeast of present-day Meicheng Town, Jiande, Hangzhou, Zhejiang), where his boat comes under heavy enemy cannon fire. Trapped in a sea of fire, Ruan attempts to escape by diving underwater but is caught in the hooks thrown at him by enemy soldiers. He is afraid of suffering humiliation as a captive at the hands of the enemy, so he draws his sword and commits suicide by slitting his throat.
- (Chinese) Li, Mengxia. 108 Heroes from the Water Margin, page 55. EPB Publishers Pte Ltd, 1992. ISBN 9971-0-0252-3.
- Buck, Pearl. All Men are Brothers. Moyer Bell Ltd, 2006. ISBN 9781559213035.
- Zhang, Lin Ching. Biographies of Characters in Water Margin. Writers Publishing House, 2009. ISBN 978-7506344784.
- Shibusawa, Kou. Bandit Kings of Ancient China, page 95. KOEI, 1989.
- (Japanese) Ichisada, Miyazaki. Suikoden: Kyoko no naka no Shijitsu. Chuo Koronsha, 1993. ISBN 978-4122020559.
- Miyamotois, Yoko. Water Margin: Chinese Robin Hood and His Bandits.
- Keffer, David. Outlaws of the Marsh.