Tao Zongwang was from Guangzhou, and was born into a poor farming family. He was skilled with both the spear and the sword and possessed great strength, like a tiger. Thus, he was nicknamed 'Nine-tailed turtle' (九尾龟).
Tao, along with Ou Peng, Ma Lin and Jiang Jing established a bandit stronghold at Huangmen Mountain. After the Liangshan heroes stormed the execution ground in Jiangzhou and were on their way back to Liangshan, they passed by Huangmen Mountain. Tao Zongwang and his friends stopped Song Jiang and expressed their will to join the Liangshan band, which Song agreed.