Zhang Heng (Water Margin)

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Zhang Heng
Water Margin character
Senkaji Chao wringing out hin loincloth.jpg
An illustration of Zhang Heng, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
First appearance Chapter 37
Nickname "Boatman"
Rank 28th, Balance Star (天平星) of the 36 Heavenly Spirits
Navy leader of Liangshan
Origin Pirate
Simplified Chinese 张横
Traditional Chinese 張橫
Pinyin Zhāng Héng
Wade–Giles Chang Heng

Zhang Heng is a fictional character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. He ranks 28th of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed "Boatman".


The novel describes Zhang Heng as a man seven chi tall, with triangular eyes, yellow whiskers, red hair and crimson eyes. He is an excellent swimmer and can leap out of the water from wave to wave like flying fish. Even harsh weather conditions do not deter him from performing superhuman feats in water. He is nicknamed "Boatman" for his abilities.

Zhang Heng lives in Jieyang Ridge (揭陽嶺; believed to be in present-day Jiujiang, Jiangxi), near the Xunyang River, with his younger brother, Zhang Shun. The brothers engage in illegal trading and piracy on the river. Later, Zhang Shun moves to Jiangzhou (江州; east of present-day Chongzuo, Guangxi) and works as a fisherman there. A compulsive gambler, Zhang Heng disguises himself as a ferryman and robs unsuspecting travellers to support his gambling habits.

Joining Liangshan[edit]

When Song Jiang runs into trouble with the Mu brothers (Mu Hong and Mu Chun) in the nearby Jieyang Town, he flees from the town and boards Zhang Heng's boat in desperation. When the boat reaches the middle of the river, Zhang Heng reveals his true intentions and wants to rob Song Jiang and kill him by throwing him into the river. Just then, Zhang Heng's friend Li Jun shows up, stops Zhang, and introduces Song Jiang to Zhang and the Mu brothers. Zhang Heng and the Mu brothers are stunned when they learn of Song Jiang's true identity, because they have heard of his reputation as a generous and chivalrous hero and have been wanting to meet him. They apologise to him and treat him like an honoured guest. They see him on his journey to Jiangzhou later. Before Song Jiang leaves, Zhang Heng asks Song to help him pass a message to Zhang Shun.

Song Jiang runs into trouble in Jiangzhou later after writing a seditious poem while he was drunk, and ends up being arrested and sentenced to death. However, the outlaws from Liangshan Marsh show up in Jiangzhou, storm the execution ground, and rescue Song Jiang. Zhang Heng, Li Jun and the others meet Song Jiang and the outlaws at the riverbank and ferry them back to the safety of Liangshan. Zhang Heng joins the outlaw band at Liangshan and becomes one of the Liangshan navy's leaders.

When Huyan Zhuo leads the imperial army to attack the outlaws, he orders the artillery commander Ling Zhen to bombard Liangshan with cannon fire. Zhang Heng leads the navy to sabotage the cannons and lure Ling Zhen into a trap. Ling Zhen pursues the outlaws to the middle of the river, where the outlaws capsize his boat and capture him. Song Jiang manages to convince Ling Zhen to join Liangshan. When the imperial army attack Liangshan again (this time led by Guan Sheng), Zhang Heng attempts to launch a sneak attack on the enemy camp at night but falls into a trap and is captured. He is released after Guan Sheng surrenders and joins Liangshan.

Campaigns and death[edit]

After the Liangshan outlaws are granted amnesty by Emperor Huizong, Zhang Heng follows them on their campaigns against the Liao invaders and other rebel forces. During the campaign against the rebel leader Fang La, Zhang Shun is killed by Fang Tianding's archers while trying to climb over the Yongjin Gate in Hangzhou. After Zhang Shun's death, his spirit possesses Zhang Heng and he kills Fang Tianding in revenge, and then leaves his brother's body. After Zhang Heng recovers, he is so grieved by his brother's death that he faints and dies from illness not long later.