Shi Jin

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Shi Jin
Water Margin character
Kyumonryu shinshin and Chokanko Chintasu.jpg
An illustration of Shi Jin, done by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
First appearance Chapter 2
Nickname "Nine Tattooed Dragons"
Rank 23rd, Minute Star (天微星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Tiger Cub Vanguard General of Liangshan
Origin Master of Shi Family Village
Ancestral home / Place of origin Huayin County (present-day Huayin, Weinan, Shaanxi)
Weapon Staff, Pudao
Simplified Chinese 史进
Traditional Chinese 史進
Pinyin Shǐ Jìn
Wade–Giles Shih Chin

Shi Jin is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 23rd of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Nine Tattooed Dragons".


Shi Jin is the son of Squire Shi, the master of the Shi Family Village in Huayin County (華陰縣; present-day Huayin, Weinan, Shaanxi). He has been fascinated with martial arts since childhood, and spends his time training or befriending other jianghu figures. In doing so, he neglects his duties of running the village. He is nicknamed "Nine Tattooed Dragons" because of the nine dragon tattoos he sports on his upper torso, in addition to other flowery tattoos all over his body.

Shi Jin is the first of the 108 Liangshan heroes to make an appearance in the novel. Wang Jin, a former martial arts instructor of the Imperial Guards, is forced to abandon his career and escape because he offended Grand Marshal Gao Qiu, who seeks vengeance on him. Wang Jin and his elderly mother pass by the Shi Family Village while fleeing from the capital Dongjing (東京; present-day Kaifeng, Henan). Squire Shi takes pity on Wang Jin and his mother and allows them to stay in his village.

One morning, while Shi Jin is practising some staff movements in the courtyard, he hears Wang Jin commenting that his skill is not good enough. Feeling stung by Wang Jin's remarks, he rudely challenges the stranger to spar with him, but is stopped by his father, who chides him for being disrespectful towards their guest. However, Shi Jin insists on fighting Wang Jin but ends up losing the match. Feeling humbled after his defeat and impressed by Wang Jin's skill, he apologises to Wang for his arrogant attitude and requests Wang to teach him martial arts. Squire Shi helps his son make a further request. Wang Jin agrees to accept Shi Jin as his student.

Wang Jin stays in the village for a few months, during which he instructs Shi Jin in martial arts. He leaves with his mother after seeing that Shi Jin has improved significantly. Shi Jin feels bored after his master's departure and spends his time training and sparring with other martial artists. He becomes famous in the region after defeating stronger fighters. Squire Shi dies some time later and the burden of running the village falls on Shi Jin's shoulders.

Becoming an outlaw[edit]

An illustration of Shi Jin, done by Chen Hongshou.

Shi Jin hears of three men who lead an outlaw band, numbering some 3,000 people, based on the nearby Mount Shaohua (少華山; southeast of present-day Hua County, Weinan, Shaanxi). The local government in Huayin County is afraid of them. When the stronghold lacks supplies, Chen Da, one of the three outlaw chiefs, leads a group to raid Huayin County for resources. They pass by the Shi Family Village along the way and encounter Shi Jin, who leads the villagers to stop them. Shi Jin defeats Chen Da in a fight and captures him.

Chen Da's companions, Zhu Wu and Yang Chun, come to the village to plead with Shi Jin to release Chen. Deeply moved by their strong sense of brotherhood, Shi Jin releases Chen Da and befriends the three outlaw chiefs. They frequently host parties for each other and exchange gifts. One day, one of Shi Jin's men gets too drunk during a party hosted by the outlaws and falls asleep beside the road on the way back to the village. The hunter Li Ji chances upon him, searches him for valuable items, and finds a letter from the outlaws to Shi Jin. He brings it to the county office and receives a reward for reporting that Shi Jin is collaborating with the outlaws. The magistrate sends soldiers to arrest Shi Jin.

Shi Jin is having a party with the three outlaws when he notices the soldiers approaching. The three men ask Shi Jin to turn them in so that he will not be implicated, but Shi refuses and prefers to fight on their side. He burns down his village and joins the outlaws as they fight their way back to Mount Shaohua. After reaching the safety of their stronghold, Zhu Wu asks Shi Jin to join the band, but Shi declines and says that he wants to find his master, Wang Jin.

Shi Jin arrives in Weizhou (渭州; around present-day Pingliang, Gansu), where he meets and befriends Lu Da (Lu Zhishen). He also encounters Li Zhong, who was his first martial arts instructor. He meets Lu Zhishen again after the latter is banished from the monastery on Mount Wutai. They team up and defeat the evil bandits Cui Daocheng and Qiu Xiaoyi at the dilapidated Waquan Temple.

Joining Liangshan[edit]

Shi Jin returns to Mount Shaohua to join Zhu Wu, Chen Da and Yang Chun. Once, when he learns that the corrupt Prefect He has kidnapped the daughter of a craftsman called Wang Yi, he attempts to assassinate the prefect and rescue Wang's daughter but fails and ends up being captured and imprisoned. Lu Zhishen tries to break into the prison to save Shi Jin but falls into a trap and is captured by the enemy. The outlaws from Mount Shaohua seek help from the outlaw band at Liangshan Marsh. Song Jiang, the chief of the Liangshan outlaws, impersonates Su Jin, a Grand Marshal, and orders Prefect He to come out of the city to pay respect to him. As soon as Prefect He leaves the safety of the city walls, the outlaws kill him, fight their way into the city and rescue Shi Jin and Lu Zhishen. Shi Jin and the Mount Shaohua outlaws follow the others back to Liangshan.

During the battle of Dongping Prefecture, Shi Jin volunteers to infiltrate the city and work as a spy for the Liangshan forces through his friendship with Li Ruilian, a prostitute who lives in Dongping. Unfortunately for him, the brothel mistress reports him to the prefecture governor, who sends his soldiers to ambush Shi Jin, arrest him and throw him into prison. Shi Jin is freed after the outlaws defeat the government forces and conquer Dongping Prefecture.

Campaigns and death[edit]

After the Grand Assembly of the 108 Liangshan heroes, Shi Jin becomes one of the Eight Tiger Cub Vanguard Generals of the Liangshan cavalry. He follows the heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after the outlaws have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong. He proves himself to be a valiant warrior in battle and makes contributions by defeating several enemies during these campaigns.

During the campaign against the rebel leader Fang La, Shi Jin makes a major achievement by slaying the enemy general Shen Gang during the battle of Runzhou (潤州; present-day Runzhou District, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu). Later on, he, Chen Da, Yang Chun and three other Liangshan heroes are assigned to lead the attack on Yuling Pass (昱嶺關; near present-day Zhupu Village, She County, Huangshan City, Anhui), which is guarded by Fang La's general Pang Wanchun. Pang Wanchun slays Shi Jin with a single arrow shot during the battle while the other five heroes are killed by Pang's archers. Shi Jin's death is dramatic because it marks the first appearance of Pang Wanchun in the novel and serves as a platform for Pang to display his archery skill.

See also[edit]