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China Critical Characters Sima Qian and Records of the Grand Historian

Sima Qian and Records of the Grand Historian

Records of the Grand Historian, well-known as Chinese most influentially professional and dependable record of history from pioneering period of China to Western Han Dynasty under the reign of Emperor Wudi, was written by Sima Qian (145BC-87 BC) of the Western Han Dynasty after he suffered a humiliating and insulting penalty of castration.

It plays an important role in linking the past and the future in the development of Chinese prose. It originated the biographical history and biographical literature in China, and covers a history of 3,000years ranging from the legendary Huang Di, or Yellow Emperor, to Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty. This book has altogether 103 articles, totaling more than 500,000 Chinese characters. Book of History embodies Sima Qian's progressive concept of history and judicial criticism of social reality, reflected in four aspects: exposure of the feudal ruling class, especially the supreme ruling clique of the Han Dynasty; expression of people's resistance to feudal despotism; extolling of people from the lower social strata; and description of a host of patriotic heroes.

Records of the Grand Historian is not only a faithful documenting of history but also possesses high literary value. Its artistry is mainly reflected in the skillful characterization of many distinctive characters based on true historical materials. In their portrayals, Sima Qian made great efforts in uniting history, characters and themes, and consequently both history and characters are vividly depicted. Sima Qian is also good at illustrating someone's character by placing him in a sharp confrontation and letting his words and deeds speak for him. The narration in Records of the Grand Historian is concise and vivid. The descriptive dramatic scenes further enhance the work's appeal.

Instead of following the style of pian wen, with its lavish parallelism and ornate language, Sima Qian formed his own simple, concise, fluent and easy-to-read style. The language used in Records of the Grand Historian is informal, humorous and full of variations; therefore it has always been esteemed as the highest achievement of classical Chinese writing.

Writer: David from Seeraa International
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