Ruan was born with an unusual appearance, with bulging eyes and light yellow whiskers, with dark patches on his skin, as though he was cast in bronze. Thus, he earned the nickname 'Living King Yama' (活阎罗). Ruan Xiaoqi and his two elder brothers Ruan Xiaoer and Ruan Xiaowu in Shijie village as fishermen. All three of them were known to be powerful swimmers. Ruan Xiaoqi loved gambling and often gambled all his money away. He was a straightfoward and impatient man.