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Records of the Historian by Sima Qian - Book Report/Review Example

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History has always meant dates, events and people of significance arranged in the most boring and dry manner possible. This is true of Western history, and in Chinese classical literature, while the style is more lyrical, it is still the chronological listing of important personages and what they did…
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Records of the Historian by Sima Qian
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Download file to see previous pages Sima Qian, also referred to as Ssi-ma Ch'ien, was the grand historian to the Emperor during the Han dynasty at the court of Liu Che (156-87 Before the Common Era or BCE), Han Wudi (r. 141-87 BCE), taking over his father's post as keeper of astronomical records. He was born in 145 BCE. (Sima Qian) Sima Qian was trained as an astronomer because his main responsibility was to establish and maintain the royal calendar. However, he went beyond the mere documentation of the events in the life of the imperial court in his Records of the Grand Historian. He believed that history should be a teaching tool, for others to learn by and take to heart by revealing the values of the society in which the events happened. ("Sima Qian Ssuma Ch'ien: Two Biographies, from The Records of the Grand Historian of China"; Fuehrer)
Sima Qian was the author of the Shih chi, or Records of the Historian, the first full history of China encompassing the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin and Hand dynasties. It has 130 chapters arranged according to subject rather than chronology. It included annals, chronicles and treatises on music, ceremonies, calendars, religion and economics. ("Sima Qian") The Records of the Historian is quite distinct from the classical Chinese prose which employed the classical style of poetry because it was simple and concise, easy to read and informal. Sima Qian succeeded in painting vivid images of the way things were during the different periods and gave life to the dramas and characters of the people who took part in history. He made use of narratives and conversations to bring across the characters of the players as they had appeared to him at that time. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography because he had a progressive take on the concept of historical literature and social realism in that he exposed how the feudal ruling class was and how the people reacted to it as well as a plethora of patriotic heroes. ("Sima Qian and Records of the Historian")
Passages from Records of the Historian
The biographical sketch Sima Qian accorded the First Emperor during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) showed the many facets of the ruler who unified China. The Emperor had the "(w)eapons from all over the empire confiscated" for other purposes and standardized weights of measurement, the writing system and because the emperor "pities the black-headed people" he established laws and demanded justice for all. "The August Emperor in his enlightenment" brought peace to China. Yet it was this same emperor upon the advice of Chancellor Li Si who ordered all books, save those approved by the Qin state to be destroyed because while he succeeded in "establishing a single state of authorityadherents to private theoriesdefy the rulerfabricating slander." This is feudalism at its peak. The emperor especially targeted documents pertaining to the Odes and the Documents, philosophical texts favored by Confucius that referred to sensitive areas in the human condition. The ruler threatened those who "uses antiquity to criticize the present" with severe punishment. Some scholars were also described as plotting against the emperor who is "by nature obstinate, cruel, and self-willed. [he] believes that there has never been anyone like him ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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