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History Assignment

Chinese Philosoph代寫

Sima Qian and the Shiji?
Introduction
The Warring State period (475B.C.-221B.C.) plays an important role in the development of Chinese long-standing and well-established culture. Many schools of thoughts and brilliant ideologists appeared during this period, which laid a foundation of Chinese traditional culture. Sima Qian was an excellent historiographer and litterateur in the Western Han Dynasty (206B.C.-A.D.24). He edited and sorted the historical materials in this period and had an intensive study of it. His masterpiece was called the Shiji or Records of the Historian. Sima Qian and his splendid description and narration bequeathed valuable literature and culture to the later generations. This essay mainly discusses Sima Qian’s life story, the brief introduction of the Shiji, the creation background of the work, and his thoughts reflected in the masterpiece.
 
Sima Qian’s Life Story
Sima Qian was a famous historian and litterateur in Chinese history. He lived in the Western Han Dynasty, but his exact date of birth and death was unknown. Sima Qian’s scholastic career can be traced back to the year when he was about ten years old. His father Sima Tan brought him to Chang’an (the capital of Western Han) in this year. He became a student of Dong Zhongshu, a master of Confucianism and was inspired by the Confucian tradition there. (Nienhauser 230). He began to read ancient books in his teenage and studied earnestly. He always pondered over a puzzling question repeatedly until he could understand it. At the age of twenty, Sima Qian set off from Chang’an and travelled to the south. He had left his footprints in the Yangtze-Huaihe River basin and Central China extensively, investigated various customs and collected stories. Shortly after he travelled back, he secured an official position and followed Emperor Wu of Han to go on a cruise many times. In 108 B.C., Sima Qian filled his father’s shoes and took up the post of imperial astronomer. He was in charge of astronomy study and imperial books, so he had chances to read many historical records. In 104 B.C., he cooperated with some astronomers and drafted “Taichu Calender”, a first calendar with full written records in China. In the same year, he got down to writing the Shiji. In 99 B.D., Li Ling lost a battle and surrendered to Xiongnu (an ancient nationality in the period of the Western Han Dynasty). Sima Qian stood up for Li Ling that made Emperor Wu of Han angry. Then he was thrown into prison and suffered “Gong Xing” (castration, a punishment in ancient China) unfortunately. In 96 B.D., he was released from prison and appointed as head of the secretariat, an officer who was responsible for the emperor’s documents. Thereafter he was assiduous in writing the Shiji and accomplished it at his age of about fifty five eventually. Sima Qian didn't have an easy life, but he realized the value of life.

 
Brief Introduction of the Shiji
Sima Qian inherited and developed the advantages of history books before the Han Dynasty, and then had an innovation in writing style of historical records which were written in a series of biographies. He spent more than ten years and made great efforts on writing the Shiji. The Shiji is the first history book presented in a series of biographies in Chinese history. It is different from the historical records in annalistic style or in territorial style previously. It records more than three thousand years’ history between the Yellow Emperor Period (approximately 3000 B.D.) in ancient legend and Taiyuan Year (122 B.D.) of the Emperor Wu in Western Han. The Shiji contains one hundred and thirty volumes with about five hundred and twenty thousand words. It reflects the political, economical, military and cultural status of development during the three thousand years’ history before the Western Han Dynasty.
 
The Shiji focuses on the history of the emperors and politicians. It can be sectioned in five parts, which are “Ben Ji”, “Biao”, “Shu”, “Shi Jia” and “Lie Zhuan”. Every part of it records disparate contents. “Ben Ji” mainly keeps a record of the rise and decline of dynasties through the ages and significant historical events. “Biao” are chronicles of events in each historical period that presented in tabulated form. “Shu” are special topics on the aspects of astronomy, calendar, water conservancy, economy, culture, etc. “Shi Jia” describes activities and stories of the feudal princes and nobles. “Lie Zhuan” are biographies of influential people from all ranks, and a small number of chapters also recorded the history of minorities. “Ben Ji”, “Shi Jia” and “Lie Zhuan” are centred in historical figures and they also include most sections and chapters in the Shiji. The contents of the Shiji are coverall and clear in skeleton. Besides, Sima Qian was good at highlighting the figures’ characteristics by their words and deeds. The languages he used were vivid and balanced in the simple and the complex wording and phrasing.
 
The Shiji has a far-reaching influence on historiography in the later ages. As a result of wars lasting for several centuries after the collapse of the Han Dynasty, many research materials of Han Dynasty’s culture and social development were missing. Yet the Shiji was a good source for Han studying and created a standard in composing historical books. (Ebrey 48). Henceforth, from the Hanshu written in the Eastern Han Dynasty to the Draft History of Qing published in the early years of the Republic of China, almost two thousand years’ historical records follow the writing style of the Shiji. Except for its important position in the science of history, the Shiji is regarded as an excellent literary works. It has a very high literary value. Prominent Chinese writer Lu Xun also spoke highly of it and thought it was not less excellent than Lisao, one of the master works by the poet Qu Yuan.
 
Sima Qian’s Writing Motivation and the Creation Background of the Shiji
As described in the previous section, Sima Qian encountered obstacles and had to suffer from great pressures during the composition of the Shiji. However, he never gave up in writing it. This part discusses Sima Qian’s writing motivation and the creation background of the Shiji.
 
In the first place, Sima Qian was influenced by his father to a large extent. His father Sima Tan was a cultured and literate person and his family was in charge of the official position of historiographer from generation to generation. He was an imperial astronomer of the Western Han Dynasty and showed the duties and obligations of a historian. His dream was to write a great history book. When he was terminally ill, he entrusted his unfinished dream to Sima Qian. Sima Qian depicted the moving situation in Tai Shi Gong Zi Xu (Autobiographical Afterword of the Grand Historian). His father took him by the hand and told him in tears that he must accept the official position of a historiographer and continue the writing of historical books. Sima Qian saw a historian’s responsibilities from his father and made a firm decision to write the Shiji. Sima Qian and his father were proud of the compiling of history books and devoted themselves to the work.
 
In the second place, Sima Qian’s tour experience and identity of an official historian provided source materials for his writing of the Shiji. He travelled extensively in his youth. He discovered and appreciated the natural beauty, collected historical stories from different areas, revised and supplemented the predecessors’ articles and records, closed to common life of the people and deepened his understanding o f the social realities. As an imperial astronomer, he had opportunities to read more historical records and books of various subjects, which helped to enrich his knowledge. 
 
Last but not least, the writing of the Shiji was the way Sima Qian fought against dark social reality and an expression of his grief and indignation. Sima Qian always kept his father’s unfulfilled wish in memory. He found out that many wise men had suffered a lot by reading books of the scholars of the past. He was loyal to Emperor Wu of Han, but he was insulted and punished by castration in his defense of Li Ling. He was physical and psychological harmed severely. He made a firm resolution to write Shiji, and revealed the political corruption and social injustice through it. In Sima Qian’s letter to Ren An (a friend of Sima Qian), he expressed his lament and resentment. He thought he had a similar misery with Qu Yuan, but he would never give up overcoming the hardship. “A man has only one death. That death may be as weighty as Mount Tai, or it may be as light as a goose feather. It all depends upon the way he uses it.”(Bary and Bloom 370). He still showed his great aspiration of writing the Shiji.
Therefore, the birth of the Shiji was closely related to Sima Qian’s growth environment, personal experience and thoughts. They are coexisting in Chinese history. 
 
Sima Qian’s Thoughts reflected in the Shiji
The Shiji was not only a record of historical events and historical figures, but also a reflection of Sima Qian’s thoughts. In the beginning of Emperor Wu’s region, many schools of thought were popular in China. Sima Qian considered that every school of thought has good points and the thoughts could complement each other. He upheld the Confucianism and spoke highly of Confucius in Kong Zi Shi Jia (House of Confucius). He approved most opinions of the Confucian and the Taoists. Meanwhile, he could point out their shortages and dared to criticize them sharply. In the Shiji, he showed his conception of history, national viewpoint, outlook on politics and his economic view.
 
A historian should have the ability to seek truth from facts and write down them strictly according to the facts. Sima Qian was a right-minded historian like this. He was not afraid of authority and recorded historical events and figures faithfully. He had the courage to expose cruel officials’ villainy and criticized emperors in the Shiji. For instance, in Ning Xing Lie Zhuan (The Biographies of the Emperors’ Male Favourites), he dared to say outspokenly that “Emperor Gaozu, for all his coarseness and blunt manners, was won by the charms of a young boy named Ji”. (Sima 419). He used the past to satirize Emperor Wu’s tyranny. Sima Qian’s conception of history was impartial and factualistic. 
 
The Western Han Dynasty was increasingly strong in the region of Emperor Wu, but the people lived in the frontiers were in troubled waters. National minorities invaded and harassed the border areas constantly, pillaged food and goods, and killed lots of people. Especially that the Han Dynasty had a difficult relationship with Xiongnu. In this context, Sima Qian showed his progressive national viewpoints in the Shiji. He had a thought of great unification in this point. He thought the people lived in the Han Dynasty and the national minorities were equal and should live together peacefully. For example, although Sima Qian was dead against the brutal domination of Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty), he praised his great merits and achievements in unifying China. He praised it in Liu Guo Nian Biao (Reflections on the Rise of the Qin) that “Qin’s seizure of the empire was accompanied by much violence. Yet it managed to change with the times and its accomplishments were great.”(Sima 87). 
 
Sima Qian’s outlooks on politics were enlightened as well. He delivered his opinions in his detailed narration of historical events and vivid description of historical figures’ words and deeds. He objected to tyranny and had people-oriented thought. In Ku Li Lie Zhuan (The Biographies of the Harsh Officials), he talked about topics that hash judicial system and dominators’ brutal reign drove the people to revolt. In Xun Li Lie Zhuan (The Biographies of the Reasonable Officials), he admired honest and upright officials who had earned respect and love from people. By comparing the two kinds of officials, he believed that the relationship between the common people and officials was the basis of social stability and national prosperity. Confucius had an effect on Chinese philosophical ideas in later ages, especially his thought of humanism. (Chan 15). In this way, his descriptions in the two articles can also be regarded as evidence that he supported Confucianism. Besides, Sima Qian spared no effort to abolish the system of vassal states and approved of united regime. His political thought reflected his great concerns about people’s life and national development.
 
Apart from the great attention paid on politics, Sima Qian also kept a watchful eye on the economy. Years of wars between the Han Dynasty and Xiongnu posed a big pressure on the national economy. Sima Qian recorded many famous economic figures in history in the Shiji, and the description in Huo Zhi Lie Zhuan (The Biographies of the Money-makers) and Ping Huai Shu (The Treatise on the Balanced Standard) reflected his economic view. On the one hand, on the background of the booming economy in the reign of Emperor Wen and Emperor Jing of the Western Han Dynasty, Sima Qian described economic prosperity of the early Han Dynasty, accepted the advantages of the merchants and encouraged people to go into business in Huo Zhi Lie Zhuan. On the other hand, he sketched out the economic recession in the reign of Emperor Wu and satirized the economic policy in Ping Huai Shu. The two articles were in stark contrast and showed Sima Qian’s economic thought. The feudal rulers implemented policy of physiocracy and restriction of business all the time in China. Sima Qian was opposed to this policy. He studied commercial activities and was aware of the significance of commercial development. In addition, he thought business activities should be free of state interference. On the contrary, commerce-oppressing policy brought a negative influence on the economy. He agreed that business activities should follow the laws of economics.
 
Conclusion
Sima Qian was a brilliant historian and he had made a great contribution on Chinese historical research and literature. He had a lifetime of frustrations, but he stuck with it and never gave up in writing books. Sima Qian’s growth environment, educational background and personal experience had an effect on his thoughts, values and writing career. He suffered from great pain physically and mentally and devoted his whole life to the writing of the Shiji. The masterpiece is a milestone in Chinese historiography and an expression of Sima Qian’s thoughts about history, nations, politics and economy. Combined with the study of Sima Qian’s life experience and texts of the Shiji, people can understand his thoughts better.
 
 
 
 
 
References
De Bary, William Theodore, and Irene Bloom. Sources of Chinese Tradition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
 
Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd Ed. New York: The Free Press, 1993.
 
Nienhauser, William H. "For Want of a Hand: A Note on the "Hereditary House of Jin" and Sima Qian's "Chunqiu"". Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 127, No. 3. Jul.-Sep. 2007: 229-247.
 
Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty(Revised Edition). Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
 
Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty. Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
 
WING-TSIT, CHAN. A Source Book of Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.
 

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