Xu Ning

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Xu Ning
Water Margin character
First appearance Chapter 56
Nickname "Gold Lancer"
Rank 18th, Guardian Star (天祐星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Tiger Cub Vanguard General of Liangshan
Origin Instructor of the Gold Lancers Unit
Ancestral home / Place of origin Henan
Weapon Hooked Lance (鈎鐮槍)
Simplified Chinese 徐宁
Traditional Chinese 徐寧
Pinyin Xú Níng
Wade–Giles Hsü Ning

Xu Ning is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 18th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Gold Lancer".


The novel describes Xu Ning as a man six chi tall, with a fair face, a thin dark beard and a wide waist. As the martial arts instructor of the Gold Lancers Unit in the Song Empire's Imperial Army, he trains his soldiers to use the unique hooked lance, which looks like an ordinary Chinese spear, but with a hook on the side of the spear's shaft.

He leads a prestigious life in the imperial capital, Dongjing (東京; present-day Kaifeng, Henan), and is highly respected by his colleagues and other jianghu figures. He is nicknamed "Gold Lancer" for his skill in using the hooked lance and for his prowess in combat skills.

Joining Liangshan[edit]

When the outlaws from Liangshan Marsh are defeated by imperial forces led by Huyan Zhuo, who deploys his cavalry in a seemingly invincible chain-linked armoured formation, Tang Long (Xu Ning's cousin, who has joined the outlaws) recommends his cousin to his fellows and says that Xu Ning is the only person who knows how to break the formation. Song Jiang, the outlaw chief, is eager to recruit Xu Ning to join the outlaw band when he learns of Xu's background and skills. He orders Tang Long, Dai Zong and Shi Qian to find a way to bring Xu Ning to Liangshan.

Shi Qian steals Xu Ning's family heirloom, a gold armoured vest that is extremely light but yet capable of stopping sharp weapons from piercing through. Xu Ning values his vest highly and is determined to catch the thief and retrieve his stolen possession, so he goes off in pursuit of Shi Qian. He is unable to catch up with Shi Qian, who uses Dai Zong's magic talismans to travel at superhuman speed. Feeling exhausted after a long chase, Xu Ning stops at an inn and takes a break. He meets Tang Long, who pretends to sympathise with him and agree to help him retrieve the stolen vest. The inn is actually run by Liangshan's Zhu Gui and Zhu Fu, who add drugs to the food and wine served to Xu Ning. Xu Ning does not suspect anything and is knocked out after consuming the food and wine. The outlaws transport him to Liangshan while he is unconscious.

Xu Ning is surprised to find himself at Liangshan when he regains consciousness, and is even more unhappy when he learns that the outlaws had set up the entire incident to lure him there. However, his anger subsides after he sees his former colleague, Lin Chong, who has become an outlaw after suffering injustice at the hands of corrupt government officials. Lin Chong and Song Jiang manage to convince Xu Ning to join the outlaw band. Xu Ning is overjoyed when he sees that the outlaws have helped him fetch his family to Liangshan while he was unconscious. He also gets his vest back.

Xu Ning trains the Liangshan infantry in using the hooked lance, which is used to counter Huyan Zhuo's chain-linked armoured cavalry formation. The outlaws score a major victory over the imperial forces after destroying the formation. Huyan Zhuo is captured and he joins Liangshan after being persuaded by Song Jiang.

Campaigns and death[edit]

Xu Ning becomes one of the Eight Tiger Cub Vanguard Generals of the Liangshan cavalry after the Grand Assembly of the 108 Stars of Destiny. He follows the Liangshan heroes on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and rebel forces after they have been granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong.

During the campaign against the rebel leader Fang La, Xu Ning and Hao Siwen are assigned to attack the enemy-controlled city of Hangzhou, where they encounter Fang La's son, Fang Tianding, who is defending the city. Hao Siwen is captured and killed by Fang Tianding's men. Xu Ning attempts to save Hao Siwen but is hit by a poisoned arrow in the neck and dies from poisoning later.