Shuihu Zhuan, a work of fiction with a perverse narrative of atrocities, has been criticized as a novel with serious ethical demerits. Yet, this novel remains widely appreciated within Chinese society, with many holding its morals in high esteem. This presents an apparent paradox when juxtaposed against the ethical criticisms directed at the novel. Understanding the forming of the ethical evaluation is pivotal, especially given the significant role of ethical references in literary commentary—a backdrop further intensified by traditional Chinese literary theory, which is deeply influenced by Confucian moral teachings. Since interpretations of Shuihu Zhuan should consider its context, this article analyzes the forming of ethical evaluation about the work from the perspective of guanxi culture and its emphasis on bao and qing principles.In this light, the characters can be viewed as moral exemplars. Although the novel’s many protagonists seem cruel, in the guanxi-oriented Chinese society, readers’ attention is caught by their bao and qing rather than their crimes. Since Shuihu Zhuan is a knight errant fiction in the first cult of the qing movement in Chinese literary history, bao and qing principles are basic criteria for the ethical evaluation of this work. The specific cultural and historical context generates a paradoxical impression of the work: a novel with both a highly ethical evaluation and a perverse narrative about atrocities.


bao, cult of qing, ethical criticism, guanxi narrative, knight errant fiction, Shuihu Zhuan, qing

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)