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Encyclopedia > Sima Qian
Si Ma Qian's names
Family name and given name Style name
Traditional 司馬遷 子長
Simplified 司马迁 子长
Pinyin Sīmǎ Qiān Zǐcháng
Wade-Giles Ssŭma Ch'ien Tzu-ch'ang
Sima Qian
Sima Qian

Si Ma Qian (司馬遷) (c. 14590 BC) was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes (太史令) of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography because of his highly praised work, Shiji (史記, "history record"), an overview of the history of China covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to Emperor Han Wudi (漢武帝). His work laid the foundation for later Chinese historiography. Shortcut: WP:CU Marking articles for cleanup This page is undergoing a transition to an easier-to-maintain format. ... This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things easy to read by following a consistent format — it is a style guide. ... Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. ... Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. ... A Chinese style name, sometimes also known as a courtesy name, is an extra name that could be used in place of the given name. ... Traditional Chinese characters are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... Simplified Chinese characters (Simplified Chinese: 简体字; Traditional Chinese: 簡體字; pinyin: jiǎntǐzì; also called 简化字/簡化字, jiǎnhuàzì) are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... It has been suggested that Pinyin_method be merged into this article or section. ... Wade-Giles, sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a Romanization (phonetic notation and transliteration) system for the Chinese language based on Mandarin. ... Image File history File links Si_maqian. ... Image File history File links Si_maqian. ... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 190s BC 180s BC 170s BC 160s BC 150s BC - 140s BC - 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC 100s BC 90s BC Years: 150 BC 149 BC 148 BC 147 BC 146 BC - 145 BC - 144 BC 143 BC... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC 100s BC - 90s BC - 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC Years: 95 BC 94 BC 93 BC 92 BC 91 BC - 90 BC - 89 BC 88 BC 87... A prefect (from the Latin praefectus, perfect participle of praeficere: make in front, i. ... The Han Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: ; Simplified Chinese: ; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Han Chau; 206 BC–AD 220) followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. ... Chinese historiography refers to the study of methods and assumptions made in studying Chinese history. ... The Records of the Grand Historian or the Records of the Grand Historian of China was the magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the mythical Yellow Emperor until his own time. ... China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and countries linked to Chinese cultural and political history. ... Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor or Huang Di (Traditional Chinese: , Simplified Chinese: , pinyin: huángdì) is a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is said to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese. ... Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC*–March 29, 87 BC), personal name Liu Che, was the sixth emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. A military compaigner, Han China reached its greatest expansion under his reign, spanning from Kyrgyzstan in the west, Northern... Chinese historiography refers to the study of methods and assumptions made in studying Chinese history. ...

Contents

Early life and education

Si Ma Qian was born and grew up in Longmen, near present-day Hancheng, Shaanxi. He was raised in a family of historiographers. His father, Sima Tan (司馬談), served as the Prefect of the Grand Scribes of Emperor Han Wudi. His main responsibilities were managing the imperial library and calendar. Under the influence of his father, at the age of ten, Sima Qian was already well versed in old writings. He was the student of the famous Confucians Kong Anguo (孔安國) and Dong Zhongshu (董仲舒). At the age of twenty, with the support of his father, Sima Qian started a journey throughout the country, collecting useful first-hand historical records for his main work, Shiji. The purpose of his journey was to verify the ancient rumors and legends and to visit ancient monuments, including the renowned graves of the ancient sage kings Yu and Shun. Places he had visited include Shandong, Yunnan, Hebei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Hunan. After his travels, he was chosen to be the Palace Attendant (郎中, Lang Zhong) in the government, whose duties were to inspect different parts of the country with Emperor Han Wudi. In 110 BC, at the age of thirty-five, Sima Qian was sent westward on a military expedition against some "barbarian" tribes. In 110 BC, Sima Tan fell ill for not being allowed to attend the Imperial Feng Sacrifice. Suspecting his time was running out, he summoned his son back to carry on the family tradition, that is, to complete the historical work he had begun. Sima Tan had the ambition to follow the Annals of Spring and Autumn (春秋左氏傳 the first chronicle in the history of Chinese literature). Therefore, from 109 BC, Sima Qian started to compile Shiji and inherited his father's inspiration. In 105 BC, Sima Qian was among the scholars chosen to reform the calendar. As a senior imperial official, Sima Qian was also in the position to offer counsel to the emperor on general affairs of state. In 99 BC, Sima Qian got involved in the Li Ling (李陵) Affair. Li Guangli (李廣利) and Li Ling, two military officers, were ordered to lead a campaign against the Xiongnu (匈奴)in the north. Having been defeated and taken as captives, Emperor Han Wudi attributed the defeat to Li Ling. A prefect (from the Latin praefectus, perfect participle of praeficere: make in front, i. ... Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC*–March 29, 87 BC), personal name Liu Che, was the sixth emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. A military compaigner, Han China reached its greatest expansion under his reign, spanning from Kyrgyzstan in the west, Northern... Confucianism (儒家 Pinyin: rújiā The School of the Scholars), sometimes translated as the School of Literati, is an East Asian ethical, religious and philosophical system originally developed from the teachings of Confucius. ... Dong Zhongshu (董仲舒 Hanyu Pinyin Dŏng ZhòngshÅ«, Wade-Giles Tung Chung-shu) (c. ... In the television series Stargate SG-1, Yu is portrayed as a Goauld System Lord. ... Shun (Traditional Chinese: ) was a legendary leader of ancient China, among the Three August Ones and the Five Emperors. ...   (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Shāndōng; Wade-Giles: Shan-tung) is a coastal province of eastern Peoples Republic of China. ...   (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ; literally south of the clouds) is a province of the Peoples Republic of China, located in the far southwestern corner of the country. ... Hebei (Chinese: 河北; pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Ho-pei; Postal System Pinyin: Hopeh) is a northern province of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Zhejiang (also spelled Chehkiang or Chekiang) is an eastern coastal province of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Jiangsu (Simplified Chinese: 江苏; Traditional Chinese: 江蘇; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Chiang-su; Postal System Pinyin: Kiangsu) is a province of the Peoples Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. ... Jiangxi (Chinese: 江西; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Chiang-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Kiangsi) is a southern province of the Peoples Republic of China, spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south. ...   (Chinese: ; pinyin: Húnán) is a province of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning south of the lake). Hunan is sometimes called 湘 (pinyin: Xiāng) for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 160s BC 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC - 110s BC - 100s BC 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC Years: 115 BC 114 BC 113 BC 112 BC 111 BC - 110 BC - 109 BC 108 BC... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 160s BC 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC - 110s BC - 100s BC 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC Years: 115 BC 114 BC 113 BC 112 BC 111 BC - 110 BC - 109 BC 108 BC... The Annals of Spring and Autumn (春秋 Chūn Qiū, also known as 麟經 Lín Jīng) was the chronicle of the state of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period, from 722 BC to 481 BC. Traditionally attributed to Confucius as writer or... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC - 100s BC - 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC Years: 114 BC 113 BC 112 BC 111 BC 110 BC - 109 BC - 108 BC 107 BC... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC - 100s BC - 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC Years: 110 BC 109 BC 108 BC 107 BC 106 BC - 105 BC - 104 BC 103 BC... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC 100s BC - 90s BC - 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC Years: 104 BC 103 BC 102 BC 101 BC 100 BC - 99 BC - 98 BC 97 BC 96... A Xiongnu belt buckle. ...

While all the officials in the government condemned Li Ling for the defeat, Sima Qian was the only person who defended Li Ling, who had never been his friend but whom he respected. Emperor Han Wudi thought Sima Qian’s defence of Li Ling was an attack on Wudi's brother-in-law who was fighting against Xiongnu without much success. Subsequently, he was sentenced to death. At that time, execution could be replaced either by money or mutilation (i.e. castration). Since Sima Qian did not have enough money to atone his fault, he chose the latter and was then thrown into prison. Image File history File links Sima_Qian. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ...


In 96 BC, Si Ma Qian was released from prison. The three-year ordeal in prison ("When you see the jailer you abjectly touch the ground with your forehead. At the mere sight of his underlings you are seized with terror... Such ignominy can never be wiped away.") did not frighten Sima Qian away. On the contrary, it became a driving force compelling him to succeed his family’s legacy of recounting history. So he continued to write Shiji, which was finally finished in 91 BC. Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC 100s BC - 90s BC - 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC Years: 101 BC 100 BC 99 BC 98 BC 97 BC - 96 BC - 95 BC 94 BC 93... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC 100s BC - 90s BC - 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC Years: 96 BC 95 BC 94 BC 93 BC 92 BC - 91 BC - 90 BC 89 BC 88...


Historian

The first page of Shiji.
The first page of Shiji.

Although the style and form of Chinese historical writings varied through the ages, Sima Qian’s Shiji has since dictated the proceeding quality and style. Not only is this due to the fact that the Chinese historical form was codified in the second dynastic history by Ban Gu’s [Pan Ku’s] (班固) Han Shu [History of Han] (漢書), but historians regard Sima Qian’s work as their model, which stands as the "official format" of the history of China. Shiji File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Shiji File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Ban Gu (Chinese: ; Wade-Giles: Pan Ku, 32-92), was a 1st century Chinese historian. ... The Book of Han (Ch: 漢書, Hanshu) is a classic Chinese historical writing covering the history of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE-9 CE). ...


In writing Shiji, Si Ma Qian initiated a new writing style by presenting history in a series of biographies. His work extends over 130 chapters — not in historical sequence, but was divided into particular subjects, including annals, chronicles, treatises — on music, ceremonies, calendars, religion, economics, and extended biographies. Before Sima Qian, histories were written as dynastic history; his idea of a general history affected later historiographers like Zhengqiao (鄭樵) in writing Tongshi (通史) and Sima Guang (司馬光) in writing Zizhi Tongjian (資治通鑑). Sima Qian even affected the writing style of histories in other places, as seen in The History of Korea, which was written as a general history. Annals are a form of historical writing which record events year by year. ... Most often, Chronicles refers to the biblical Books of Chronicles. ... A treatise is a formal, systematic written analysis of a certain subject, more lengthy than an essay. ... Sima Guang (Chinese:司马光; Wade-Giles:Szuma Kuang, 1019-1086) was a Chinese historian, scholar and statesman of the Song Dynasty. ... Zizhi Tongjian (traditional Chinese character: 資治通鑑; simplified Chinese character: 资治通鉴; pinyin Zīzhì Tōngjìan, Wade-Giles Tzu-chih tung-chien) is known to be a important Chinese history text of annual chronology. ...


Literary figure

Si Ma Qian's Shiji is respected as a model of biographical literature with high literary value.


Skillful depiction: its artistry was mainly reflected in the skillful portrayal of many distinctive characters which were based on true historical information. Sima Qian was also good at illustrating the response of the character by placing him in a sharp confrontation and letting his words and deeds speak for him. The use of conversations in his writing also makes the descriptions more vibrant and realistic.


Innovative approach: Si Ma Qian also initiated a new approach in writing history. The language used in Shiji was informal, humorous and full of variations. This was an innovative way of writing at that time and thus it has always been esteemed as the highest achievement of classical Chinese writing; even Lu Xun (魯迅) regarded Shiji as "the first and last great work by historians, poems of Qu Yuan without rhyme." (史家之絕唱,無韻之離騷) in his Hanwenxueshi Gangyao (《漢文學史綱要‧司馬相如與司馬遷》). Lu Xun Lu Xun (Traditional Chinese: ; Simplified Chinese: , pinyin: LÇ” Xùn) or Lu Hsün (Wade-Giles) (September 25, 1881 – October 19, 1936), the pen name of Zhou Shuren (Traditional Chinese: ; Simplified Chinese: , pinyin: Zhōu Shùrén), has been considered one of the most influential Chinese writers... Qu Yuan Qu Yuan (Simplified Chinese: 屈原; Traditional Chinese: 屈原; Pinyin: qÅ« yúan) (c. ...


Concise language: Si Ma Qian formed his own simple, concise, fluent, and easy-to-read style. He made his own comments while recounting the historical events. In writing the biographies in Shiji, he avoided making general descriptions. Instead, he tried to catch the essence of the events and portrayed the characters concretely and thus the characters in Shiji gave the readers vivid images with strong artistic appeal.


Influence on literature: Si Ma Qian’s writings were influential to Chinese writing, which become a role model for various types of prose within the neo-classical (fu gu [fu kku]) (复古) movement of the Tang-Song [Tang-Sung] (唐宋) period. The great use of characterisation and plotting also influenced fictional writing, including the classical short stories of the middle and late medieval period (Tang-Ming [T'ang-Ming]), as well as the vernacular novel of the late imperial period. Shiji still stands as a "textbook" for the studies of classical Chinese worldwide.


Other literary works: apart from Shiji, Si Ma Qian had written eight rhapsodies (Fu 賦), which are compiled in Ban Gu's Hanshu. Sima Qian expressed his suffering during the Li Ling Affair and his perseverance in writing Shiji in these rhapsodies. Fu may refer to: Fu is a word meaning expertise Fu is a Chinese suffix (e. ...


Astrologer

Si Ma Tan and later his son, Si Ma Qian, were both court astrologers (taishi) 太史 in the Former Han Dynasty. At that time, the astrologer was an important post, responsible for interpreting and predicting the course of government according to the influence of the Sun, Moon, and stars, as well as other phenomena like solar eclipses, earthquakes, etc. The Sun is the star at the centre of the Solar System. ... Adjective lunar Bulk silicate composition (estimated wt%) SiO2 44. ... This article is about the astronomical object. ... The French 1999 eclipse An eclipse (Greek verb: ekleipô, to vanish, though it derives from the prefix ex-, away from, and Greek leipein, to leave) is an astronomical event that occurs when one celestial object moves into the shadow of another. ... Global earthquake epicenters, 1963–1998. ...


Before compiling Shiji, in 104 BC, with the help of his colleagues, Si Ma Qian created Taichuli (which can be translated as 'The first calendar') on the basis of the Qin calendar. Taichuli was one of the most advanced calendars of the time as it stated that there were 365.25 days in a year and 29.53 days in a month. The creation of Taichuli was regarded as a revolution in the Chinese calendar tradition. Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC - 100s BC - 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC Years: 109 BC 108 BC 107 BC 106 BC 105 BC - 104 BC - 103 BC 102 BC... Taichuli calendar was one of the most advanced calendars of Ancient China. ...


Analysing information: Si Ma Qian analysed the historical records and sorted out those which could serve the purpose of Shiji. He intended to find out the patterns and principles of the development of human history by writing Shiji so as to find out the relationship between heavenly law and men. This is why Sima Qian adopted a new method in sorting out the historical data and a new approach in writing the historical record.


Si Ma Qian emphasised the role of men in affecting the historical development of China. It is the first time in Chinese history that men were put under the spotlight in the analysis of historical development. He also denounced superstition by condemning Emperor Han Wudi, who was extravagant in praying to gods. In addition, he also proposed his historical perception that a country cannot escape from the fate of "from boom to trough, and from trough to boom". With these in-depth analyses and insight, Sima Qian set an example for writing journalistic articles in later generations.


Unlike Ban Gu's (班固) Hanshu (漢書), which was written under the supervision of the Imperial Dynasty, Shiji was a privately written historiography. Although Si Ma Qian was the Prefect of the Grand Scribes in the Han government, he refused to write Shiji as an official historiography. This is why Shiji not only covered those of high rank, but also people of the lower class so as to portray the darker side of the dynasty, and thus Shiji is regarded as a "veritable record". The Book of Han (Ch: 漢書, Hanshu) is a classic Chinese historical writing covering the history of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE-9 CE). ...


Books about Sima Qian in English

  • Burton Watson (1958) Ssu-ma Ch'ien: Grand Historian of China. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang (1974) Records of the Historians. Hong Kong: Commercial Press.
  • Qian, Sima and trans. Watson, Burton (1993),Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty. Research Center for Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Columbia University Press.

Burton Watson (born 1925) is one of the worlds best-known translators of the Chinese and Japanese literary works. ...

References

  • W.G. Beasley and E.G. Pulleyblank (1961) Historians of China and Japan. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Stephen W. Durrant (1995), The Cloudy Mirror: Tension and Conflict in the Writings of Sima Qian. Albany : State University of New York Press.
  • Grant Ricardo Hardy (1988) Objectivity and Interpretation in the "Shi Chi". Yale University.
  • Burton Watson (1958) Ssu-ma Ch'ien: Grand Historian of China. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Joseph Roe Allen III. Chinese Texts: Narrative Records of the Historian

External links

Wikisource
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Shiji (in Chinese)
  • Sima Qian and His Shiji
  • Significance of Shiji on literature

  Results from FactBites:
 
Sima Qian - New World Encyclopedia (1670 words)
Sima Qian’s style of writing was easy to read, full of humor and, less formal than most classical language, his history was therefore accessible to a wide readership.
Sima Qian's contribution to historiography included an emphasis on the human element in history rather than attributing all events to supernatural causes, which was a departure from tradition.
Sima Qian was also good at illustrating the response of the character by placing him in a sharp confrontation and letting his words and deeds speak for him.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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