Reading: Shi Naian — The Water Margin: The Outlaws of the Marsh, Trans: J. H. Jackson

This is one of the classics of Chinese literature, and me being the philistine could only gawp over how thick it was when I picked it up yesterday — and this is the translation with only 70 of a possible 120 chapters. I keep thinking a useful comparison would be Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was written around the same time, as while Chaucer’s work has several possible orders it can be read in and its completeness is uncertain, The Water Margin has had a number of additions, annotations, commentaries, re-assemblings in that distinctive Chinese approach to writing.

So I, without knowing all this until I read the introduction, have found myself landed with Jin Shengtan’s 1641 version, with his commentary and missing the final 30-50 chapters (depending on which previous version one might refer to), by way of J. H. Jackson in the ’30s, who prudishly omitted some of the more creative language, which was then re-edited by Edwin Lowe. This translation though isn’t as well-regarded as the Sidney Shapiro one (something I wish I’d bothered to find out before carting it home).

Shi Naian – The Water Margin
Shi Naian – The Water Margin