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The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
name ''Shiji'', is a monumental
history of ancient China History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 millio ...
and the world finished around 94 BC by the
Western Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Western Han Dynasty
official
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
after having been started by his father,
Sima Tan Sima Tan (; 165–110  BCE) was a Chinese astrologer and historian during the Western Han dynasty. Education & career Sima Tan studied astronomy with Tang Du, the ''I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ...
, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court. The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2,500-year period from the age of the legendary
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://w ...

Yellow Emperor
to the reign of
Emperor Wu of Han Emperor Wu of Han (30 July 157BC29 March 87BC), formally posthumous name, enshrined as Emperor Wu the filial piety, Filial (), born Liu Che (劉徹) and courtesy name Tong (通), was the seventh emperor of China, emperor of the Han dynasty of imp ...

Emperor Wu of Han
in the author's own time. The ''Records'' has been called a "foundational text in Chinese civilization". After
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), ...

Confucius
and the
First Emperor of Qin First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill ...
, "Sima Qian was one of the creators of Imperial China, not least because by providing definitive biographies, he virtually created the two earlier figures." The ''Records'' set the model for the 24 subsequent dynastic histories of China. In contrast to Western historical works, the ''Records'' do not treat history as "a continuous, sweeping narrative", but rather break it up into smaller, overlapping units dealing with famous leaders, individuals, and major topics of significance.


History

The work that became ''Records of the Grand Historian'' was begun by
Sima Tan Sima Tan (; 165–110  BCE) was a Chinese astrologer and historian during the Western Han dynasty. Education & career Sima Tan studied astronomy with Tang Du, the ''I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ...
, who was Grand Astrologer (''Taishi'' ) of the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
court during the late 2nd century. Sima Tan drafted plans for the ambitious work and left behind some fragments and notes that may have been incorporated into the final text. After his death in 110, the project was continued and completed by his son and successor
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, who is generally credited as the work's author. The exact date of the ''Records'' completion is unknown, but it is certain that Sima Qian completed it before his death in approximately 86, with one copy residing in the imperial capital of
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between th ...
(present-day
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals ...
) and the other copy probably being stored in his home. The original title of the work, as given by the author in the postface is ''Taishigongshu'' (), or ''Records of the Grand Historian'', although it was also known by a variety of other titles, including ''Taishigongji'' () and ''Taishigongzhuan'' () in ancient times. Eventually, ''Shiji'' (), or ''Historical Records'' became the most commonly used title in Chinese. This title was originally used to refer to any general historical text, although after the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the End of the Han dynasty, end of the Han dynasty#East ...

Three Kingdoms
period, ''Shiji'' gradually began to be used exclusively to refer to Sima Qian's work. In English, the original title, ''Records of the Grand Historian'' is in common use, although ''Historical Records'', ''The Grand Scribe's Records'', and ''Records of the Historian'' are also used. Details of the ''Records'' early reception and circulation are not well known. A number of 1st-century BC authors, such as the scholar Chu Shaosun (; fl. 327), added interpolations to the ''Records'', and may have had to reconstruct portions of it: ten of the original 130 chapters were lost in the Eastern Han period (AD 25220) and seem to have been reconstructed later. Beginning in the
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
(420589) and the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
(618907), a number of scholars wrote and edited commentaries to the ''Records''. Most 2nd-millennium editions of the ''Records'' include the commentaries of Pei Yin (, 5th century),
Sima Zhen Sima Zhen (; 679–732), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including Chi ...
(early 8th century), and Zhang Shoujie (, early 8th century). The combined commentaries of these three scholars is known as the ''Sanjiazhu'' (, "commentaries of the three experts"). The primary modern edition of the ''Records'' is the ten-volume
Zhonghua Book Company Zhonghua Book Company (), formerly spelled Chunghwa or Chung-hua Shu-chü, and sometimes translated as Zhonghua Publishing House, are Chinese publishing houses that focuses on the humanities, especially classical Chinese works. Currently it has ...
edition of 1959 (revised in 1982), and is based on an edition prepared by the Chinese historian
Gu Jiegang Gu Jiegang (8 May 189325 December 1980) was a Chinese historian best known for his seven-volume work '' Gushi Bian'' (, or ''Debates on Ancient History''). He was a co-founder and the leading force of the Doubting Antiquity School, and was highl ...
in the early 1930s and includes the ''Sanjiazhu''.


Manuscripts

There are two known surviving fragments of ''Records'' manuscripts from before the Tang dynasty, both of which are preserved in the
Ishiyama-dera is a Shingon temple A temple (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Thr ...
temple in
Ōtsu file:Otsu City Hall.JPG, 270px, Ōtsu City Hall is the capital Cities of Japan, city of Shiga Prefecture, Japan. , the city had an estimated population of 343,991 in 153458 households and a population density of 740 persons per km². The total a ...
, Japan. Portions of at least nine Tang dynasty manuscripts survive: three fragments discovered among the Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century, and six manuscripts preserved in Japanese temples and museums, such as the
Kōzan-ji , officially , is a Buddhist temple of the Omuro sect of Shingon Buddhism in Umegahata Toganōchō, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Ukyō Ward, Kyoto, Japan. Kōzan-ji is also known as Kōsan-ji and Toganō-dera. The temple was founded by the Shingon scholar an ...
temple in
Kyoto Kyoto (; : , ''Kyōto'' ), officially , is the capital city of in . Located in the on the island of , Kyoto forms a part of the along with and . As of 2021, the city has a population of 1.45 million, making up 57% of the prefecture's total p ...

Kyoto
and the
Tōyō Bunko The , or "Oriental Library", is Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat ...
museum in
Tokyo Tokyo (Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is capital of Japan, the capital and most populous Prefectures of Japan, prefecture of Japan ...

Tokyo
. A number of woodblock printed editions of the ''Records'' survive, the earliest of which date to the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
(9601279).


Contents

In all, the ''Records'' is about 526,500
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
long, making it four times longer than
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc-gre, Θουκυδίδης ; BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the app ...
' ''
History of the Peloponnesian War The ''History of the Peloponnesian War'' is a historical account of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), which was fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Classical Athens, Athens). It was written by ...
'' and longer than the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites. The ...
. Sima Qian conceived and composed his work in self-contained units, with a good deal of repetition between them. His manuscript was written on
bamboo slips Bamboo and wooden slips () were the main media for writing documents in China before the widespread introduction of paper during the first two centuries AD. (Silk was occasionally used, for example in the Chu Silk Manuscript, but was prohibiti ...
with about 24 to 36 characters each, and assembled into bundles of around 30 slips. Even after the manuscript was allowed to circulate or be copied, the work would have circulated as bundles of bamboo slips or small groups.
Endymion Wilkinson Endymion Porter Wilkinson (born 15 May 1941) is an English diplomat and scholar who served as the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are loca ...
calculates that there were probably between 466 and 700 bundles, whose total weight would have been , which would have been difficult to access and hard to transport. Later copies on silk would have been much lighter, but also expensive and rare. Until the work was transferred to paper many centuries later, circulation would have been difficult and piecemeal, which accounts for many of the errors and variations in the text. Sima Qian organized the chapters of ''Records of the Grand Historian'' into five categories, which each comprise a section of the book. ; Basic Annals : The "Basic Annals" (''běnjì'' ) make up the first 12 chapters of the ''Records'', and are largely similar to records from the ancient Chinese court chronicle tradition, such as the ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
''. The first five cover either periods, such as the Five Emperors, or individual dynasties, such as the
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...

Xia
,
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang
, and
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
dynasties. The last seven cover individual rulers, starting with the
First Emperor of Qin First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill ...
and progressing through the first emperors of the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
. In this section, Sima chose to also include ''de facto'' rulers of China, such as
Xiang Yu Xiang Yu (, –202 BC), born Xiang Ji (), was the Hegemon-King (Chinese: 霸王, ''Bà Wáng'') of Western Chu Chu (, Hanyu Pinyin: Chǔ, Old Chinese: ''*s-r̥aʔ'') was a Zhou dynasty ancient Chinese states, vassal state. Their firs ...

Xiang Yu
and
Empress Dowager Lü An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the he ...
, while excluding rulers who never held any real power, such as
Emperor Yi of Chu Emperor Yi of Chu (died 206 BC), also known as King Huai II of Chu before receiving his ''de jure'' emperor title, personal name Xiong Xin, was the ruler of the Chu state in the late Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wad ...
and
Emperor Hui of Han Emperor Hui of Han (Liu Ying 劉盈; 210 BC – 26 September 188 BC) was the second emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imper ...
. ; Tables : Chapters 13 to 22 are the "Tables" (''biǎo'' ), which are one genealogical table and nine other chronological tables. They show reigns, important events, and royal lineages in table form, which Sima Qian stated that he did because "the chronologies are difficult to follow when different genealogical lines exist at the same time." Each table except the last one begins with an introduction to the period it covers. ; Treatises : The "Treatises" (''shū'' , sometimes called "Monographs") is the shortest of the five ''Records'' sections, and contains eight chapters (23–30) on the historical evolution of ritual, music,
pitch pipe A pitch pipe is a small device used to provide a pitch reference for musicians without absolute pitch. Although it may be described as a musical instrument, it is not typically used to play music as such. Technically, it is a harmonica; however, it ...
s, the calendar, astronomy, sacrifices, rivers and waterways, and financial administration. ; Hereditary Houses : The "Hereditary Houses" (''shìjiā'' ) is the second largest of the five ''Records'' sections, and comprises chapters 31 to 60. Within this section, the earlier chapters are very different in nature than the later chapters. Many of the earlier chapters are chronicle-like accounts of the leading states of the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China ( ...
, such as the states of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
and Lu, and two of the chapters go back as far as the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
. The later chapters, which cover the Han dynasty, contain biographies. ; Ranked Biographies : The "Ranked Biographies" (''lièzhuàn'' , usually shortened to "Biographies") is the largest of the five ''Records'' sections, covering chapters 61 to 130, and accounts for 42% of the entire work. The 69 "Biographies" chapters mostly contain biographical profiles of about 130 outstanding ancient Chinese men, ranging from the moral paragon Boyi from the end of the Shang dynasty to some of Sima Qian's near contemporaries. About 40 of the chapters are dedicated to one particular man, but some are about two related figures, while others cover small groups of figures who shared certain roles, such as assassins, caring officials, or Confucian scholars. Unlike most modern biographies, the accounts in the "Biographies" give profiles using anecdotes to depict morals and character, with "unforgettably lively impressions of people of many different kinds and of the age in which they lived." The "Biographies" have been popular throughout Chinese history, and have provided a large number of set phrases still used in modern Chinese.


Style

Unlike subsequent official historical texts that adopted
Confucian , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...

Confucian
doctrine, proclaimed the divine rights of the emperors, and degraded any failed claimant to the throne, Sima Qian's more liberal and objective prose has been renowned and followed by poets and novelists. Most volumes of ''Liezhuan'' are vivid descriptions of events and persons. Sima Qian sought out stories from those who might have closer knowledge of certain historical events, using them as sources to balance the reliability and accuracy of historical records. For instance, the material on
Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also called Yan Dan (). He lived in the State of Qin as a hostage, but ...
's attempt at assassinating the King of Qin incorporates an eye-witness account by Xia Wuju (), a physician to the king of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
who happened to be attending the diplomatic ceremony for Jing Ke, and this account was passed on to Sima Qian by those who knew Xia. It has been observed that the diplomatic Sima Qian has a way of accentuating the positive in his treatment of rulers in the Basic Annals, but slipping negative information into other chapters, and so his work must be read as a whole to obtain full information. For example, the information that
Liu Bang Emperor Gaozu of Han (256 – 1 June 195 BC), born Liu Bang () with courtesy name Ji (季), was the founder and first emperor of the Han dynasty, reigning in 202–195 BC. His temple name was "Taizu" while his posthumous name was Emper ...

Liu Bang
(later Emperor Gaozu of Han), in a desperate attempt to escape in a chase from
Xiang Yu Xiang Yu (, –202 BC), born Xiang Ji (), was the Hegemon-King (Chinese: 霸王, ''Bà Wáng'') of Western Chu Chu (, Hanyu Pinyin: Chǔ, Old Chinese: ''*s-r̥aʔ'') was a Zhou dynasty ancient Chinese states, vassal state. Their firs ...

Xiang Yu
's men, pushed his own children off his carriage to lighten it, was not given in the emperor's biography, but in the biography of Xiang Yu. He is also careful to balance the negative with the positive, for example, in the biography of Empress Dowager Lu which contains startling accounts of her cruelty, he pointed out at the end that, despite whatever her personal life may have been, her rule brought peace and prosperity to the country.


Source materials

Sima's family were hereditary historians to the Han emperor. Sima Qian's father
Sima Tan Sima Tan (; 165–110  BCE) was a Chinese astrologer and historian during the Western Han dynasty. Education & career Sima Tan studied astronomy with Tang Du, the ''I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ...
served as Grand Historian, and Sima Qian succeeded to his position. Thus he had access to the early Han dynasty archives, edicts, and records. Sima Qian was a methodical, skeptical historian who had access to ancient books, written on
bamboo and wooden slips Bamboo and wooden slips () were the main media for writing documents in China before the widespread introduction of paper during the first two centuries AD. (Silk was occasionally used, for example in the Chu Silk Manuscript, but was prohibiti ...
, from before the time of the Han dynasty. Many of the sources he used did not survive. He not only used archives and imperial records, but also interviewed people and traveled around China to verify information. In his first chapter, "Annals of the Five Emperors," he writes, The Grand Historian used ''The Annals of the Five Emperors'' () and the ''
Classic of History The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of ...
'' as source materials to make genealogies from the time of the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://w ...

Yellow Emperor
until that of the
Gonghe regency The Gonghe Regency () was an interregnum period in Chinese history from 841 BC to 828 BC, after King Li of Zhou was exiled by his nobles during the ''Compatriots Rebellion'', when the Chinese people rioted against their old corrupt king. It last ...
(841–828 BC). Sima Qian often cites his sources. For example, in the first chapter, "Annals of the Five Emperors", he writes, "I have read the ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
'' and the '' Guoyu''." In his 13th chapter, "Genealogical Table of the Three Ages," Sima Qian writes, "I have read all the genealogies of the kings (''dieji'' ) that exist since the time of the Yellow Emperor." In his 14th chapter, "Yearly Chronicle of the Feudal Lords", he writes, "I have read all the royal annals (''chunqiu li pudie'' ) up until the time of
King Li of Zhou King Li of Zhou (died in 828 BC) (), personal name Ji Hu, was the tenth king of the Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the Lis ...
." In his 15th chapter, "Yearly Chronicle of the Six States," he writes, "I have read the Annals of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
(''qin ji'' ), and they say that the
QuanrongThe Quanrong () or Dog Xirong, Rong were an ethnic group, classified by the ancient Chinese as "Qiang (historical people), Qiang", active in the northwestern part of China during and after the Zhou dynasty (1046–221 BCE). Their language or language ...
barbarian tribedefeated
King You of Zhou King You of Zhou (; 795–771 BC), personal name Ji Gongsheng, was the twelfth king King is the title given to a male in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is , which title is also given to the of a king. *In the context of ...
a 771 BC" In the 19th chapter, he writes, "I have occasion to read over the records of enfeoffment and come to the case of Wu Qian, the marquis of Bian...." (The father of Marquis Bian, Wu Rui, was named king (wang) of
Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a Mandarin Chinese#Subgrouping, dialect of Mandar ...

Changsha
in
Hunan Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdi ...

Hunan
for his loyalty to Gaozu. See article on
Zhao Tuo , temple name = , house = Triệu dynasty The Triệu dynasty (; vi, Nhà Triệu, links=no; wikt:家, 家wikt:趙, 趙) ruled the kingdom of Nanyue, which consisted of parts of southern China as well as northern Vietnam. Its capital was Pan ...

Zhao Tuo
). In his chapter on the patriotic minister and poet
Qu Yuan Qu Yuan ( – 278 BC) was a Chinese poet and politician in the Chu (state), State of Chu during the Warring States period. He is known for his patriotism and contributions to Classical Chinese poetry, classical poetry and verses, e ...

Qu Yuan
, Sima Qian writes, "I have read u Yuan's works''
Li Sao "The Lament" (; translation: "Encountering Sorrow") is a Chinese poem from the anthology ''Chuci The ''Chu Ci'', variously translated as ''Verses of Chu'' or ''Songs of Chu'', is an anthology of Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry ...
'', '' Tianwen'' ("Heaven Asking"), ''Zhaohun'' (summoning the soul), and ''Ai Ying'' ( Lament for Ying)". In the 62nd chapter, "Biography of Guan and of Yan", he writes, "I have read Guan's ''Mu Min'' ( - "Government of the People", a chapter in the '' Guanzi''), ''Shan Gao'' ("The Mountains Are High"), ''Chengma'' (
chariot A chariot is a type of carriage A carriage is a private four-wheeled vehicle for people and is most commonly horse-drawn A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles ...

chariot
and horses; a long section on war and economics), ''Qingzhong'' (Light and Heavy; i.e. "what is important"), and ''Jiufu'' (Nine Houses), as well as the ''Spring and Autumn Annals of Yanzi''." In his 64th chapter, "Biography of Sima Rangju", the Grand Historian writes, "I have read Sima's Art of War." In the 121st chapter, "Biographies of Scholars", he writes, "I read the Imperial Decrees that encouraged education officials." Sima Qian wrote of the problems with incomplete, fragmentary and contradictory sources. For example, he mentioned in the preface to chapter 15 that the chronicle records of the feudal states kept in the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China ( ...
's archive were burnt by
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dyna ...
because they contained criticisms and ridicule of the Qin state, and that the Qin annals were brief and incomplete. In the 13th chapter he mentioned that the chronologies and genealogies of different ancient texts "disagree and contradict each other throughout". In his 18th chapter, Sima Qian writes, "I have set down only what is certain, and in doubtful cases left a blank."


Reliability and accuracy

Scholars have questioned the historicity of legendary kings of the ancient periods given by Sima Qian. Sima Qian began the ''Shiji'' with an account of the five rulers of supreme virtue, the Five Emperors, who modern scholars, such as those from the
Doubting Antiquity SchoolThe Doubting Antiquity School or Yigupai ( Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). ''Chinese History: A Manual''. Harvard Univ Asia Center. . Page 345, see/ref>Loewe, Michael and Edward L. Shaughnessy (1999). ''The Cambridge History of Ancient China'' Cambridge ...
, believe to be originally local deities of the peoples of ancient China. Sima Qian sifted out the elements of the supernatural and fantastic which seemed to contradict their existence as actual human monarchs, and was therefore criticized for turning myths and folklore into sober history. However, according to
Joseph Needham Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham (; 9 December 1900 – 24 March 1995) was a British biochemist, historian and sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially ...
, who wrote in 1954 on Sima Qian's accounts of the kings of the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
(c. 1600 – c. 1050 BC): While the king names in Sima Qian's history of the Shang dynasty are supported by inscriptions on the oracle bones, there is, as yet, no archaeological corroboration of Sima Qian's history of the
Xia dynasty #REDIRECT Xia dynasty #REDIRECT Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Shun, the last of the Five ...

Xia dynasty
. There are also discrepancies of fact such as dates between various portions of the work. This may be a result of Sima Qian's use of different source texts.


Transmission and supplementation by other writers

After ca. 91 BC, the more-or-less completed manuscript was hidden in the residence of the author's daughter, Sima Ying (), to avoid destruction under
Emperor Wu
Emperor Wu
and his immediate successor Emperor Zhao. The ''Shiji'' was finally disseminated during the reign of Emperor Xuan by Sima Qian's grandson (through his daughter), Yang Yun (), after a hiatus of around twenty years. The changes in the manuscript of the ''Shiji'' during this hiatus have always been disputed among scholars. That the text was more or less complete by ca. 91 BC is established in the Letter to Ren'an (), composed in the Zhenghe () era of Emperor Wu's reign. In this letter, Sima Qian describes his work as "spanning from the time of the Yellow Emperor to the present age and consisting of ten tables, twelve basic annals, eight treatises, thirty chapters on hereditary houses, and seventy biographies, together totaling 130 chapters." These numbers are likewise given in the postface to ''Shiji''. After his death (presumably only a few years later), few people had the opportunity to see the whole work. However, various additions were still made to it. The historian
Liu ZhijiLiu Zhiji () (661–721), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and V ...
reported the names of a total of fifteen scholars supposed to have added material to the ''Shiji'' during the period after the death of Sima Qian. Only the additions by Chu Shaosun (, c. 105 – c. 30 BC) are clearly indicated by adding "Mr Chu said," (Chu xiansheng yue, ). Already in the first century AD,
Ban Biao Ban Biao (, 3–54 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and ...
and
Ban Gu Ban Gu (AD32–92) was a Chinese historian, politician, and poet best known for his part in compiling the ''Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written r ...

Ban Gu
claimed that ten chapters in ''Records of the Grand Historian'' were lacking. A large number of chapters dealing with the first century of the Han dynasty (i.e. the 2nd century BC) correspond exactly to the relevant chapters from the ''
Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically ...
'' (''Hanshu''). It is unclear whether those chapters initially came from the ''Shiji'' or from the ''Hanshu''. Researchers Yves Hervouet (1921–1999) and A. F. P. Hulsewé argued that the originals of those chapters of the ''Shiji'' were lost and they were later reconstructed using the corresponding chapters from the ''Hanshu''.


Editions

The earliest extant copy of ''Records of the Grand Historian'', handwritten, was made during the
Southern and Northern Dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
period (420–589 AD). The earliest printed edition, called ''Shiji jijie'' (, literally ''Records of the Grand Historian, Collected Annotations''), was published during the
Northern Song dynasty #REDIRECT Northern Song Dynasty#REDIRECT Northern Song Dynasty The Northern Song (北宋; 4 February 960 – 20 March 1127) is an era during the Song dynasty, Song Dynasty. It came to an end when its capital city, the city of Kaifeng, was conquere ...
. Huang Shanfu's edition, printed under the
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
, is the earliest collection of the ''Sanjiazhu'' commentaries on ''Records of the Grand Historian'' (, literally: ''The Combined Annotations of the Three Experts''). In modern times, the
Zhonghua Book Company Zhonghua Book Company (), formerly spelled Chunghwa or Chung-hua Shu-chü, and sometimes translated as Zhonghua Publishing House, are Chinese publishing houses that focuses on the humanities, especially classical Chinese works. Currently it has ...
in
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
has published the book in both
simplified Chinese Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by ...
for mass consumption and
traditional Chinese Traditional Chinese characters are one type of standard Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural la ...

traditional Chinese
for scholarly study. The 1959 (2nd ed., 1982) ''Sanjiazhu'' edition in traditional Chinese (based upon the Jinling Publishing House edition, see below) contains commentaries interspersed among the main text and is considered to be an authoritative modern edition. The most well-known editions of the ''Shiji'' are:


Notable translations


English

* Watson, Burton, trans. (1961). ''Records of the Grand Historian of China''. New York: Columbia University Press. **Second edition, 1993 (''Records of the Grand Historian''). Translates roughly 90 out of 130 chapters. ***''Qin dynasty'', . ***''Han dynasty, Volume 1'', . ***''Han dynasty, Volume 2'', . * Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang (1974), ''Records of the Historians''. Hong Kong: Commercial Press. **Reprinted by University Press of the Pacific, 2002. Contains biographies of Confucius and Laozi. * Raymond Stanley Dawson (1994). ''Historical records''. New York: Oxford University Press. ** Reprinted, 2007 (''The first emperor : selections from the Historical records''). Translates only Qin-related material. * William H. Nienhauser, Jr., ed. (1994– ). ''The Grand Scribe's Records'', 9 vols. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ongoing translation, and being translated out of order. As of 2020, translates 92 out of 130 chapters. ** ''I. The Basic Annals of Pre-Han China'' (2018), . ** ''II. The Basic Annals of the Han Dynasty'' (2018), . ** ''V. part 1. The Hereditary Houses of Pre-Han China'' (2006), . ** ''VII. The Memoirs of Pre-Han China'' (1995), . ** ''VIII. The Memoirs of Han China, Part I'' (2008), . ** ''IX. The Memoirs of Han China, Part II'' (2010), . ** ''X. The Memoirs of Han China, Part III'' (2016), . ** ''XI. The Memoirs of Han China, Part IV'' (2019), .


Non-English

*
Chavannes, Édouard
Chavannes, Édouard
, trans. (1895–1905). ''Les Mémoires historiques de Se-ma Ts'ien'' '' he Historical Memoirs of Sima Qian', 6 vols.; rpt. (1967–1969) 7 vols., Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve. Left uncompleted at Chavannes' death. William Nienhauser calls it a "landmark" and "the standard by which all subsequent renditions... must be measured." *
Chavannes, Édouard
Chavannes, Édouard
,
Maxime Kaltenmark Max Kaltenmark (11 November 1910 – 26 June 2002) was a French Sinology, sinologist, of Austrian origin.Jacques Pimpaneau, translators. (2015) ''Les Mémoires historiques de Se-Ma Ts'ien'' '' he Historical Memoirs of Sima Qian', 9 vols.; Éditions You Feng, Paris. This is the completed full translation of the ''Shiji'' * full translation in 9 vols: Vyatkin, Rudolf V., trans. . ''Istoricheskie Zapiski (Shi-czi) '', 8 vols. Moscow: Nauka (1972–2002); 9th volume: Vyatkin, Anatoly R., trans. (2010), Moscow: Vostochnaya literatura. This is the first complete translation into any European language. * Yang, Zhongxian ; Hao, Zhida , eds. (1997). ''Quanjiao quanzhu quanyi quanping Shiji'' ''[Shiji: Fully Collated, Annotated, Translated, and Evaluated]'', 6 vols. Tianjin: Tianjin guji chubanshe. *(in Mandarin Chinese) Yang, Yanqi 杨燕起; eds. (2001). “Shi Ji Quan Yi" 史记全译, 12 vols. Guiyang: Guizhou renmin chubanshe 贵州人民出版社 . *(in Mandarin Chinese) Xu, Jialu 许嘉璐; An, Pingqiu 安平秋, eds. (2003). ''Ershisishi'' ''quanyi: Shiji'' 二十四史全译:史记, 2 vols. Beijing: Hanyudacidian chubanshe. * Mizusawa, Toshitada ; Yoshida, Kenkō , trans. (1996–1998). ''Shiki'' ''[Shiji]'', 12 vols. Tokyo: Kyūko. * Svane, Gunnar O., trans. (2007). ''Historiske Optegnelser: Kapitlerne 61-130, Biografier 1-70''. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag. * Gregor Kneussel, Alexander Saechtig, trans. (2016). ''Aus den Aufzeichnungen des Chronisten'', 3 vols. Beijing: Verlag für fremdsprachige Literatur (Foreign Languages Press); .


See also

*''Twenty-Four Histories''


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

; Works cited * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Yap, Joseph P, (2019). The Western Regions, Xiongnu and Han, from the Shiji, Hanshu and Hou Hanshu. .


External links

* * *
The Original Text in its Entirety (Chinese)
at Internet Sacred Text Archive. Chapters 1–3, ''Ssuma Ch'ien's Historical Records'', translated by Herbert J. Allen: *
"Introductory Chapter"
(1894), ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'' 26 (2): 269–295. .

*
"The Hsia Dynasty"
(1895), ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'' 27 (1): 93–110. .

*
"The Yin Dynasty"
(1895), ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'' 27 (3): 601–615. .

* Part of chapter 63
''The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East'', Volume XII: Medieval China
', ed. Charles F. Horne, 1917, pp. 396–398. {{DEFAULTSORT:Records Of The Grand Historian Han dynasty texts Han dynasty literature 2nd-century BC history books 1st-century BC history books Twenty-Four Histories Historiography of China Chinese chronicles History books about Vietnam