Reading Sima Qian from Han to Song

The Father of History in Pre-Modern China

Series:

In 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?
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Biographical Note

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

Bibliography

Index

Readership

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.

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