Sima Qian

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Sima Qian

Sima Qian (c. 145 or 135 – 86 BC), formerly romanized Ssu-ma Chien, was a Chinese historian of the Han dynasty.


Records of the Grand Historian[edit]

  • 余嘗西至空峒,北過涿鹿,東漸於海,南浮江淮矣,至長老皆各往往稱黃帝、堯、舜之處,風教固殊焉,總之不離古文者近是。
    • I myself have travelled west as far as K'ung-t'ung, north past Cho-lu, east to the sea, and in the south I have sailed the Yellow and Huai Rivers. The elders and old men of these various lands frequently pointed out to me the places where the Yellow Emperor, Yao, and Shun had lived, and in these places the manners and customs seemed quite different. In general those of their accounts which do not differ from the ancient texts seem to be near to the truth.
      • Translated by Burton Watson.
    • I once traveled west to Mount K’ung-t'ung and passed Cho-lu [Mountain] in the north; to the east I drifted along the coast, and to the south I floated over the Huai River and the Chiang. Wherever I went, all of the village elders would point out for me sites of The Huang-ti, Yao and Shun. The traditions were certainly very different from each other. In sum, [those accounts of the elders] which were not far from the ancient-text versions [of the classics], tend to be plausible.
      • Translated by Tsai-fa Cheng, Zongli Lu, William H. Nienhauser, Jr., and Robert Reynolds, in The Grand Scribe’s Records, edited by William H. Nienhauser, Jr.
    • 五帝本紀
  • 吳王曰:「將軍罷休就舍,寡人不願下觀。」孫子曰:「王徒好其言,不能用其實。」於是闔廬知孫子能用兵,卒以為將。西破彊楚,入郢,北威齊晉,顯名諸侯,孫子與有力焉。
    • The King of Wu said,"Enough, general. Retire to your hostel, We do not wish to come down and observe." Sun Tzu said, "The king only loves the words, he cannot make use of the reality." After this, Ho-lu knew that Sun Tzu could command troops and in the end appointed him commander. [Later when Wu] defeated mighty Ch’u to its west and entered its capital Ying awed Ch'i and Chin to its north and spread its fame among the feudal lords, it was due in part to Sun Tzu.
      • Translated by Tsai-fa Cheng, Zongli Lu, William H. Nienhauser, Jr., and Robert Reynolds, in The Grand Scribe’s Records, edited by William H. Nienhauser, Jr.
    • 孫子吳起列傳
  • There is no fixed road to wealth, and money has no permanent master.
    • Translated by Burton Watson. Shiji 129: The Biographies of the Money-makers.

Quotes about Sima Qian[edit]

  • He had no penchant for beauty of style, but aimed merely to make his record complete... We shall find none of the brilliance of Taine in the pages of Szuma Ch’ien, no charming gossip and anecdotes in the style of Herodotus, no sober concatenation of cause and effect as in Thucydides, no continental vision pictured in music as in Gibbon; for history seldom rises, in China, from an industry to an art. From Szuma Ch’ien to his namesake Szuma Kuang, who, eleven hundred years later, attempted again a universal history of China, the Chinese historians have labored to record faithfully—sometimes at the cost of their income or their lives—the events of a dynasty or a reign; they have spent their energies upon truth, and have left nothing for beauty. Perhaps they were right, and history should be a science rather than an art; perhaps the facts of the past are obscured when they come to us in the purple of Gibbon or the sermons of Carlyle. But we, too, have dull historians, and can match any nation in volumes dedicated to record—and gather—dust.

External links[edit]

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