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Watson, Burton

Ssu-Ma Chʻien, Grand Historian of China

Ssu-Ma Chʻien, Grand Historian of China

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New York: Columbia University Press, [?] ; 1958. Taiwanese pirate ed. Large octavo in tan-orange jacet with red lettering; xi, 276 pages 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (pages 241-246). Very good in very good jacket in archival mylar. Hardcover.

The less common Taiwan pirated edition. / Contents: The world of Ssu-ma Chʻien -- The biography of Ssu-ma Chʻien -- The beginnings of Chinese historiography -- The form of the Shih chi -- The thought of Ssu-ma Chʻien -- Appendix A. Selected translations from the Shih chi -- Appendix B. On the dating of Ssu-ma Chʻien's letter to Jen An. ¶ "Sima Qian ([sɹ̩́mà tɕʰjɛ́n]; c. 145 – c. 86 BC) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty. He is considered the father of Chinese historiography for his Records of the Grand Historian, a general history of China covering more than two thousand years beginning from the rise of the legendary Yellow Emperor and the formation of the first Chinese polity to the reigning sovereign of Sima Qian's time, Emperor Wu of Han. As the first universal history of the world as it was known to the ancient Chinese, the Records of the Grand Historian served as a model for official history-writing for subsequent Chinese dynasties and the Chinese cultural sphere (Korea, Vietnam, Japan) up until the 20th century. Sima Qian's father, Sima Tan, first conceived of the ambitious project of writing a complete history of China, but had completed only some preparatory sketches at the time of his death. After inheriting his father's position as court historian in the imperial court, he was determined to fulfill his father's dying wish of composing and putting together this epic work of history. However, in 99 BC, he would fall victim to the Li Ling affair for speaking out in defense of the general, who was blamed for an unsuccessful campaign against the Xiongnu. Given the choice of being executed or castrated, he chose the latter in order to finish his historical work. Although he is universally remembered for the Records, surviving works indicate that he was also a gifted poet and prose writer, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Taichu calendar, which was officially promulgated in 104 BC. As his position in the imperial court was "Grand Historian" (tàishǐ 太史, variously translated as court historian, scribe, or astronomer/astrologer), later generations would accord him with the honorific title of "Lord Grand Historian" (Tàishǐ Gōng 太史公) for his monumental work; however, his magnum opus was completed many years after his tenure as Grand Historian ended in disgrace and after his acceptance of punitive actions against him including imprisonment, castration, and subjection to servility. He was acutely aware of the importance of his work to posterity and its relationship to his own personal suffering. In the postface of the Records, he implicitly compared his universal history of China to the classics of his day, the Guoyu by Zuoqiu Ming, Lisao by Qu Yuan, and the Art of War[note 1] by Sun Bin, pointing out that their authors all suffered great personal misfortunes before their lasting monumental works could come to fruition. Sima Qian is depicted in the Wu Shuang Pu (無雙譜, Table of Peerless Heroes) by Jin Guliang" ¶ "Burton Dewitt Watson (1925 – 2017) was an American sinologist, translator, and writer known for his English translations of Chinese and Japanese literature. Watson's translations received many awards, including the Gold Medal Award of the Translation Center at Columbia University in 1979, the PEN Translation Prize in 1982 for his translation with Hiroaki Sato of From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, and again in 1995 for Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o. In 2015, at age 88, Watson was awarded the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation for his long and prolific translation career."—Wikipedia ¶ 

Sima, Qian, approximately 145 B.C.-approximately 86 B.C. Biographies. China -- Historiography. Watson, Burton, 1925-2017.

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