Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Mountain lair

Mountain lair. Hideout in the most remote mountains of Shandong Province that provides the central, unifying setting for the collected stories. Here the bandits form a society for themselves, one in which they assure a system of justice and patriotism. They make outcasts of themselves on a particularly large mountain near an idyllic lake that is surrounded by boundless reeds forming a marsh. The ever-present mists create a heavenly backdrop as the skies verge into the habitats of the gods themselves. Long, moving, and invisible waterways and passages provide the bandit group with easy places to hide and help them carry out ambushes and surprise attacks. This idyllic setting is all in contrast to Chinese society at lower altitudes, where the wealthy ruling class maintains a corrupt government.


Battlefields. The largest section of the book (chapters 20 through 41) covers the adventures of Wu Sung and the battle of Chiangchow, in which Sung Chiang joins the band and becomes its leader. These eleven adventures include the story of Wu Sung’s killing of the great tiger of Ching Yang Ridge. Repeated battles occur in and near the village of Chu (Chuchiachuang) as the further adventures of Sung Chiang are recorded in later chapters. The Ridge of the Lonely Dragon is the scene of the fighting of some ten thousand men from three different families in tribal warfare. At Tamingfu and Tsengtoushih, all...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Buck, Pearl S. The Chinese Novel. New York: John Day, 1939. Her 1938 Nobel Prize lecture discusses the vividness of characterization in All Men Are Brothers, the folk mind, and the freedom and flexibility of the Chinese novel. Includes her philosophy of translation and a brief discussion of the instincts of Chinese fiction.

Hsia, C. T. The Classic Chinese Novel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. Introduction discusses the importance of the work as one of six major Chinese novels. General discussion and excellent commentary on the text; well-selected quotations from the text.

Irwin, Richard Gregg. The Evolution of a Chinese Novel: “Shui-hu chuan.” Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953. Discusses the novel in its most complete form, and shorter forms and translations. Conclusion has helpful chapter-by-chapter plot summaries.

Plaks, Andrew H. The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. Chapter on deflation of heroism in All Men Are Brothers. Argues that the models in the novel can serve for serious historical writing, although the characters are largely products of the imagination and not true historical figures.

Rolston, David L., ed. How to Read the Chinese Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. General introduction to Chinese fiction criticism; chapter on how to read All Men Are Brothers.