He hailed from Lu 魯 (modern Qufu 曲阜, Shandong) and later moved to Duling 杜陵 (near modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi). Shi Dan was a grandson of Shi Gong 史恭, a maternal uncle of Imperial Grandson Shi 史皇孫 (i.e. Liu Jin 劉進, the father of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝, r. 74-49 BCE) and son of Shi Gao 史高, Marquis of Leling 樂陵侯. He therefore became a secretary (sheren 舍人) of the Heir Apparent, who, after succeeding to the throne as Emperor Yuan 漢元帝 (r. 49-33 BCE), appointed him palace attendant commandant-escort (fuma duwei shizhong 駙馬都尉侍中).
Shi Dan was a highly esteemed official and dared to criticise Emperor Yuan for his extravagant spendings on court music. He also suggested appointing Liu Ao 劉驁 to Heir Apparent. When the succeeded to the throne as Emperor Cheng 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE), Shi Dan was first made Chamberlain for the Palace Garrison (weiwei 衛尉) of the Changle Palace 長樂宮, then General to the right (you jiangjun 右將軍), and then Grand master of splendid happiness (guanglu dafu 光祿大夫).
In 18 BCE, Shi Dan was given the title of Marquis of Wuyang 武陽侯, a position that allowed him indulging in greatest luxury himself. He retired in 14 BCE and died soon. His posthumous title is Marquis Qing 頃侯.