Hou Jian was from Hongdu, and was once a reowned tailor. Besides being a legendary tailor, he excelled in martial arts as well, learning from Xue Yong. Due to his dark complexion, his skinny and agile body, he was nicknamed 'Long-armed ape' (通臂猿).
Once, after Song Jiang had been rescued from the execution ground in Jiangzhou, he sought revenge on Huang Wenbing who had caused him to be almost executed. Hou Jian was working as a tailor in Huang's residence at that time. Xue Yong went to find Hou Jian and Hou Jian agreed to help the Liangshan heroes. Hou Jian told the whereabouts of Huang's family to the heroes and the heroes tracked down Huang's family and killed them. Huang was shocked upon hearing the news and rushed home from Hangzhou.