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Selections From Records of the Historian

  • records of the historian
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Product Description

Selections From Records of the Historian
Written by Sima Qian (the Han dynasty)
English translation by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang
Published by Foreign Languages Press, 2001
Paperback: 497 pages; dimensions (in inches): 0.12 x 8.00 x 5.08
ISBN: 7119028936

Born around 145 BCE., Sima Qian was educated in the classics, served his emperor on a variety of missions, and in 107 BCE succeeded his father as Grand Historian of the Han court. Even before rising to this position, Sima Qian had avidly collected historical records during his travels on imperial service. Upon his appointment as Grand Historian, he embarked on the initial project of collecting additional sources, especially from the imperial library, and verifying his facts. Only in 104 BCE was he ready to begin the process of composition, a labor that lasted until 91 BCE. The result was a history monumental in scope. In 130 chapters he traced the story of China from the age of the legendary Five Sage Emperors, who preceded the Xia and Shang dynasties, to his own day. In later years he made small additions and changes and probably continued to revise his masterpiece in minor ways until his death, which happened at an unknown date.

The result was well worth the effort. The Chinese rightly consider the Records of the Grand Historian to be traditional China's greatest piece of historical writing. Sima Qian aimed at telling the whole truth, insofar as he could discover it, and in pursuit of that truth he scoured all available archives. As he composed his work, he included verbatim many of the records he had found, thereby providing modern historians with a wealth of documentary evidence that would otherwise have been lost, for many of the sources Sima Qian quoted, paraphrased, and cited exist today only in his history. The book is also a remarkable commentary on human pride, intrigue, strategy and revenge; it also has an eye for detail and anecdote. To cite just one case, a minister is humiliated and driven from his kingdom; and ultimately takes revenge, as prime minister of a neighboring kingdom, by forgiving his persecutor, inviting him to a banquet, and then forcing him eat a meal of hay and water. There is also a detailed description of the tomb of China's First Emperor (the central figure of this book, whose career becomes exemplary of the folly of brutality and suppression of free thought); which has since been made famous by the discovery of the ceramic army of Xian.

Selection From Records of the Historian contains chapters: Xiang Yu - Chen She - Zhang Liang, Marquis of Liu - Prime Minister Chen Ping - Sun Wu and Wu Qi - Lord Shang - Lord Pingyuan and Yu Qing - Lord Xinling - Fan Sui and Cai Ze - Lian Po and Lin Xiangru - Tian Dan - Han Xin, Marquis of Huaiyin - Zhang Shizhi and Feng Tang - The Marquises of Weiqi and Wuan - Li Guang - The Assassins - The Gallant Citizens - The Jesters

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