Father of Chinese History, Esther Klein explores the life and work of the great Han dynasty historian Sima Qian as seen by readers from the Han to the Song dynasties. Today Sima Qian is viewed as both a tragic hero and a literary genius. Premodern responses to him were more equivocal: the complex personal emotions he expressed prompted readers to worry about whether his work as a historian was morally or politically acceptable. Klein demonstrates how controversies over the value and meaning of Sima Qian’s work are intimately bound up with larger questions: How should history be written? What role does individual experience and self-expression play within that process? By what standards can the historian’s choices be judged?
Esther Sunkyung Klein, Ph.D. (2010), Princeton University, is a lecturer in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney and a visiting researcher (2018) in the Department of Philosophy at the Australian National University. She also researches topics in early Chinese philosophy and medieval Chinese historiography.
Table of contents
Contents Acknowledgements List of Tables List of Abbreviations
Introduction Structure of the Book Historians, Lineages, and Confucian Scholars: Good Problems in Translation
Part 1: Contextualization
1 A Record of Doubts and Difficulties Overview Sources and Attribution Who is the Honorable Senior Historian? Autobiography and Authenticity Chu Shaosun: A Third Author? Extreme Textual Damage and Loss A Conclusion Leading Onward 2 Sima Qian’s Place in the Textual World Aspects of Self-Description Early Views of the Shiji The New Historical Tradition Sima Qian in the Realm of Literary Prose
Part 2: Autobiographical Readings
3 Subtle Writing and Piercing Satire Sources for Sima Qian’s Biography Early Autobiographical Readings Six Dynasties Developments Autobiographical Readings in the Tang 4 Creating and Critiquing a Sima Qian Romance A Reversal of Verdicts Su Shi’s Gentlemen and the Shiji Blaming Emperor Wu Backlash: Three Southern Song Critiques
Part 3: Reading Truth in the Shiji
5 A “True Record” On the Term “True Record” Issues of Historical Truth in the Shiji: Early Views Wang Chong and “Real Events” in the Shiji Against “Defamatory Text” Readings Dangers of “Straight Writing” in the Tang Song Dynasty Developments 6 Finding Truths in the Shiji’s Form The Overall Form of the Shiji Intention and Invention in the Shiji’s Five Sections Conclusion
Anyone interested in the origins of the Chinese historical tradition, in authorship in traditional China, or in comparative studies of authorship and/or premodern historiography.