|Water Margin character|
|First appearance||Chapter 15|
"Living King Yama"|
|Rank||31st, Defeat Star (天敗星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits|
|Navy leader of Liangshan|
|Ancestral home / Place of origin||Shijie Village (in present-day Liangshan County, Shandong)|
Ruan Xiaoqi, also known as Ruan the Seventh, is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature. Nicknamed "Living King Yama", he ranks 31st among the 36 Heavenly Spirits, the first third of the 108 Stars of Destiny.
The novel describes Ruan Xiaoqi as an unusual-looking man with bulging eyes, pale yellow whiskers, and dark patches on his skin that make him look like a bronze statue. As his physical appearance resembles depictions of King Yama, the ruler of Hell in Chinese mythology, he earns himself the nickname "Living King Yama".
Ruan Xiaoqi is the youngest of the three Ruan brothers (Ruan Xiaoer, Ruan Xiaowu and himself). They live in Shijie Village (石碣村; in present-day Liangshan County, Shandong), where they make a living by fishing in the waters around the nearby Liangshan Marsh. All the three brothers are very skilful in swimming and underwater combat.
Becoming an outlaw
Wu Yong succeeds in persuading the Ruan brothers to join Chao Gai, himself, Gongsun Sheng and Liu Tang in their plan to rob the convoy of birthday gifts for Imperial Tutor Cai Jing. After the heist, the authorities send soldiers to arrest Chao Gai and his fellow robbers. Chao Gai and his friends defeat the soldiers in the marshes, and flee to the outlaw stronghold at Liangshan Marsh in the hope of joining the outlaw band there.
Wang Lun, the selfish leader of the Liangshan outlaw band, refuses to accept Chao Gai and his friends, and tries to send them away with excuses and precious gifts. Wu Yong, sensing that Lin Chong is already unhappy with Wang Lun, uses the opportunity to instigate Lin Chong to kill Wang Lun. Chao Gai then becomes the new chief of Liangshan. Ruan Xiaoqi takes the eighth position among the leaders in the Liangshan hierarchy. Because of their prowess in water-based warfare, the Ruan brothers become leaders among the Liangshan flotilla.
Ruan Xiaoqi participates in many battles against Liangshan's enemies such as government forces and hostile private militias. When Guan Sheng leads government forces to attack the outlaw stronghold, Liangshan's Zhang Heng tries to launch a sneak attack on the enemy camp at night but ends up being captured in a trap. Ruan Xiaoqi attempts to save Zhang Heng but also falls into a trap and gets captured as well. They are released after Guan Sheng surrenders and joins the outlaw band.
Campaigns and death
After the Liangshan outlaws received amnesty from Emperor Huizong, Ruan Xiaoqi follows them on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces on Song territory. His brothers are not as lucky as him as they perished during the final campaign against Fang La's rebel forces. When the Liangshan forces occupy Fang La's palace, Ruan Xiaoqi finds Fang La's crown and robe, and puts them on in excitement.
When the surviving Liangshan heroes return to the capital to report their victory, Emperor Huizong grants each of them an official appointment to honour them for their contributions and service to the Song Empire. When it comes to Ruan Xiaoqi's turn to receive his appointment, the corrupt officials Gao Qiu and Cai Jing speak up and object to Ruan Xiaoqi receiving the honour on the grounds that he had committed treason by donning the garments of a pretender to the throne. As a result, even though he gets pardoned on account of his service, Ruan Xiaoqi still ends up being reduced to the status of a commoner. He goes back to Shijie Village and leads a happy life until his death at the age of 70.
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