Wu Song's killing of his sister-in-law: An ethical analysis

Wai Lam William SIN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


The Water Margin is a great Chinese classical novel; Wu Song's 武松 killing of his sister-in-law, Pan Jinlian 潘金蓮, is one of the most popular episodes of the novel. It depicts Wu as the hero and defender of traditional values, and Pan as the adulterous woman. In contemporary discussion, there has been a dearth of ethical analyses regarding Wu's killing of Pan. How should we judge the moral status of his action? Does the killing signify Wu Song's ethical achievement or his ethical failure? What does the killing tell us about Wu's character or his virtues? Does our appraisal of Wu's action square with our modern belief regarding the treatment of women? I will examine these questions in the article. Copyright © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-246
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Sin, W. (2018). Wu Song's killing of his sister-in-law: An ethical analysis. Dao, 17(2), 231-246. doi: 10.1007/s11712-018-9603-0


  • The Water Margin
  • WU Song 武松
  • PAN Jinlian 潘金蓮
  • Confucianism
  • Rituals
  • Zhixing 直性
  • Moral relativism


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