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Shiji 史記


The Four Categories of Literature
The Shiji 史記 "Records of the [Grand] Scribe" is a very famous universal history of early China and the first of the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史). It is the first history of China written in a biographic-thematic style (jizhuanti 紀傳體) in which biographies of different type, treatises and tables are combined. The original name of the book was Taishigong shu 太史公書 "The book of the Master Grand Scribe" or Taishiji 太史記 "Records of the Grand Scribe". These titles are derived from the office the two compilers occupied, namely that of the official dynastic court scribes (taishi 太史) of the Former Han dynasty 前漢 (206 BC- 8 AD), Sima Tan 司馬談 (d. ca. 110 BCE) and his son Sima Qian 司馬遷 (145-86 BC). Sima Tan who had access to the imperial library and the official documents stored there planned to write a universal history but was not able to finish his work and entrusted the completion to his son.
The Shiji covers a very long time period, ranging from the mythological "Yellow Emperor" Huangdi 黃帝 (trad. r. 2697-2597 BCE), the Xia 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE, trad. 2205-1766), Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE, trad. 1766-1122), Zhou 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE, trad. 1122-221) and Qin 秦 (221-206 BC) dynasties down to the contemporary period. It ends in the year 93 BCE. The main focus is on the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) and the Qin and the Han dynasties.
According to the postface (130 Taishigong zixu 太史公自序), the autobiography of Sima Qian, the book contains 130 juan "scrolls", of which 12 juan are imperial biographies (本紀 benji), ten juan tables (表 biao), eight juan treatises (書 shu), 30 juan biographies of the feudal houses of the Zhou period as well as of eminent persons (世家 shijia), and 70 juan normal and collective biographies (列傳 liezhuan).
The imperial biographies are internally arranged like annals where the most important events and edicts are recorded. For the oldest periods of time the dynasties are treated in one juan, while from the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246/221-210 BCE; 6 Qin Shihuang benji 秦始皇本紀) on each person has his/her own imperial biography. Two surprises catch the reader concerning the imperial biographies. Firstly, after the downfall of the Qin dynasty there were several warlords contesting for emperorship. One of them was Liu Bang 劉邦 (Emperor Han Gaozu 漢高祖, r. 206/02-195 BCE), the eventual founder of the Han dynasty, and another was Xiang Yu 項羽, the "hegemonial king of West-Chu" (Xichu bawang 西楚霸王) who at that time was a superior of Liu Bang. Although eventually becoming the loser of the game Xiang Yu is granted an own imperial biography (7 Xiang Yu benji 項羽本紀). This circumstance shows that historiography can also be truthful, as Xiang Yu was the more or less official ruler of China between 206 and 202 BCE (he appointed the various warlords to their royal fiefs), and not Liu Bang, but it also shows that Sima Qian did probably not favour Liu Bang as a person. Another rebel against the Qin dynasty, Chen She 陳涉, is dealt with in a hereditary biography (48 Chen She shijia 陳涉世家). Secondly, Emperor Huidi 漢惠帝 (r. 195-188 BCE) is not granted an own imperial biography but his reign is included into the biography of his mother (9 Lü taihou benji 呂太后本紀), the Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后 who, even after her son's death and the subsequent reign of two infant emperors, never ruled officially but was entrusted with the affairs of government as a regent (linchao shezheng 臨朝攝政).
The tables provide a lot of information about the genealogies of the feudal lords during the Warring States period, the war between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu for the empire, as well as the various princes, noblemen and highest officials of the early Han dynasty.
The treatises give an overview of the most important matters of statecraft. Most of them served as models for the later dynastic histories, but the treatise of the offerings for Heaven and Earth (28 Fengshan shu 封禪書) are unique because very few emperors undertook the travel to the summit of Mt. Tai 泰山. It occupies a very important place in the Shiji because Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) invested a huge state ceremony for this undertaking.
The shijia hereditary biographies are in first instances the chronicles of the feudal states of the Zhou period. Their titles normally include the founder of the feudal house, in most cases the person enfeoffed with the feudal domain at the beginning of the Zhou period. For the feudal state of Qi 齊 two biographies are presented (32 Qi Taigong shijia 齊太公世家 and 46 Tian Jingzhong Wan shijia 田敬仲完世家) because the house of Tian usurped the throne of Qi. The chapters 50-52 and 58-60 are the biographies of imperial princes of the Han dynasty. Another category of persons for which hereditary biographies are written are the high ministers serving the Han dynasty in her founding period. Those were Xiao He 蕭何, Cao Shen 曹參, Zhang Liang 張良, Chen Ping 陳平, and Zhou Bo 周勃 (chapters 53-57). Another hereditary biography is dedicated to the empresses and their relatives (49 Waiqi shijia 外戚世家). In this chapter Empress Dowager Lü shows up again. Another very important person whose biography is reported in a hereditary biography, is Confucius (47 Kongzi shijia 孔子世家).
The normal biographies are arranged chronologically and are either dedicated to one single person, as for instance that for the mighty minister of Qin, Sima Rangju (64 Sima Rangju liezhuan 司馬穰苴列傳), or as collective biographies to a group of persons who belong together, like the generals Bai Qi and Wang Jian (73 Bai Qi Wang Jian liezhuan 白起王翦列傳) or Mengzi and Xunzi 荀子, both disciples of Confucius (74 Mengzi Xun Qing liezhuan 孟子荀卿列傳). The titles of the chapters do not always refer to all persons included, like chapter 63 Laozi Han Fei liezhuan 老子韓非列傳 which does not only deal with Laozi and Han Fei also presents the lifes of Zhuangzi 莊子 and Shen Buhai 申不害. Very typical for the Shiji are nevertheless the collective biographies of otherwise not very famous persons. Many of these have been adopted as a model by later dynastic histories, like the collective biography of benevolent officials (119 Xunli liezhuan 循吏列傳), that of cruel officials (122 Kuli liezhuan 酷吏列傳), or that of the "Forest of scholars" (121 Rulin liezhuan 儒林列傳). Yet there are also many collective biographies uniquely to be found in the Shiji, like the assassins (86 Cike liezhuan 刺客列傳), the wandering knights (124 Youxia liezhuan 游俠列傳), the flatterers (125 Ningxing liezhuan 佞幸列傳), the humorists (126 Huaji liezhuan 滑稽列傳), or the profiteers (129 Huozhi liezhuan 貨殖列傳). A last group of "biographies" is to be mentioned. This are the descriptions of foreign peoples and foreign countries, genres imitated by all later dynastic histories. These chapters describe the Xiongnu (110 Xiongnu liezhuan 匈奴列傳), the Southern (113 Nanyue liezhuan 南越列傳) and Eastern Yue (114 Dongyue liezhuan 東越列傳), the Yi barbarians in the southwest (116 Xinanyi liezhuan 西南夷列傳), and the foreign countries of Korea (115 Chaoxian liezhuan 朝鮮列傳) and Dayuan (123 Dayuan liezhuan 大宛列傳).
For the compilation of the Shiji father and son Sima made use of a vast treasury of sources. For the Spring and Autumn (770-5th cent. BCE) and the Warring states periods they used sources also otherwise known, like the Chunqiu-Zuozhuan 春秋左傳 "Zuo Qiuming's commentary to the Spring and Autumn annals", the Guoyu 國語 "Discourses of the states" and Zhanguoce 戰國策 "Stratagems of the Warring States", but also sources long since lost, like the Chu-Han chunqiu 楚漢春秋 or the Shiben 世本 "Generational records" which is only transmitted in several reconstructed versions. For the contemporary events archival sources were at their disposal.
From the beginning the Shiji was occupied an eminent position in historiography and was read by dozens of generations and imitated by later historians. After the death of Sima Qian it was his relative Yan Yunzu 楊惲祖 who kept the original and helped distributing it. Nevertheless during the Later Han period there were already 10 juan missing. Zhang Yan 張晏 from the Cao-Wei empire 曹魏 (220-265) identified the missing chapters (the biographies of the emperors Jing 漢景帝 and Wu, the treatises on ritual, on music, and one on military [Bingshu 兵書, missing], a table on generals and prime ministers from the beginning of the Han period [Han xing yilai jiangxiang nianbiao 漢興以來將相年表, missing], and the biographies of the soothsayers [127 Rizhe liezhuan 日者列傳], the diviners [128 Guice liezhuan 龜策列傳], the biography of Fu Kuan and Jin She [98 Fu Jin liezhuan 傅靳列傳], as well as that of the Three Princes [60 Sanwang liezhuan 三王世家]) and found out that they had been supplemented by the late Former Han period historian Chu Suiliang 褚遂良 (courtesy name Shaosun 少孫) and were not originally written by Sima Qian, at least not a part of the chapters. That a part of the missing chapters has indeed been added is clear from the words "Master Chu says" which are inserted in the respective chapters.
Three important commentaries (sanjia zhu 三家注) have been written to the Shiji. These are the Shijie jijie 史記集解 by Pei Yin 裴駰 from the Liu-Song period 劉宋 (420-479), in 80 juan, the Shiji suoyin 史記索隱 by Sima Zhen 司馬貞 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907), in 30 juan, and the Shiji zhengyi 史記正義 by the Tang period historian Zhang Shoujie 張守節 in 30 juan. Although originally separately written they are normally inserted into the corresponding chapters of the main text. There are some newer commentaries of which the following shall be mentioned: Shiji zhiyi 史記志疑 by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Liang Yusheng 梁玉繩, and Shiji huizhu kaozheng 史記會注考證 by the Japanese scholar Takigawa Sukenobu 瀧川資言, with a supplement by Mizusawa Toshitada 水澤利忠.
The oldest surviving print was made by the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Huang Shanfu 黃善夫. This excellent print served as the origin for the Bona edition 百衲 of the Shangwu yinshuguan press 商務印書館. Other good printings are the Nanbeijian 南北監 print of the 21 dynastic histories from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644), the print of the 17 dynastic histories by the Jiguge Library 汲古閣, and the print of the 24 dynastic histories from the Wuying Hall 武英殿, the imperial library of the Qing dynasty. In the 19th century the Jinling press 金陵書局 made another print, based on Zhang Wenhu's 張文虎 composition of different editions of the Shiji, based on Qian Taiji's 錢泰吉 revision. This edition contains many printing errors. The Zhonghua press 中華書局 published a modern edition in 1959.


Source: Wu Shuping 吳樹平 (1992), "Shiji 史記", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, pp. 936 f.

Chapters of the Shiji 史記
1.-12. Benji 本紀 Imperial Annals-Biography 1-12:
1. 五帝本紀 Wudi The Five Mythical Emperors
2. 夏本紀 Xia dynasty (20th-17th cent. BCE)
3. 殷本紀 Yin (Shang) dynasty (17th-11th cent.)
4. 周本紀 Zhou dynasty (11th cent.-221)
5. 秦本紀 Qin dynasty (pre-imperial)
6. 秦始皇本紀 The First Emperor of Qin (r. 246/221-206)
7. 項羽本紀 The hegemonial king Xiang Yu (r. 206-202)
8. 高祖本紀 Emperor Han Gaozu (r. 206/02-195)
9. 呂太后本紀 [Emperor Han Huidi (r. 195-188)] Empress Dowager Lü (r. 187-180)
10. 孝文本紀 Emperor Han (Xiao-)Wendi (180-157)
11. 孝景本紀 Emperor Han (Xiao-)Jingdi (r. 157-141)
12. 孝武本紀 Emperor Han (Xiao-)Wudi (r. 141-87 [only until 93])
13.-22. Biao 表 Tables 1-10:
13. 三代世表 Genealogical tree of the Three Ages (Xia, Shang, Zhou)
14. 十二諸侯年表 Annual table of the 16 feudal rulers (of the Spring and Autumn period)
15. 六國年表 Annual table of the 6 feudal states (of the Warring States period)
16. 秦楚之際月表 Monthly table of the war between Chu and Han (206-202 BCE)
17. 漢興以來諸侯王年表 The imperial princes of Han
18. 高祖功臣侯者年表 The noblemen of early Han
19. 惠景閒侯者年表 The noblemen during the reigns of Huidi and Jingdi
20. 建元以來侯者年表 The noblemen since the reign period Jianyuan (begin 140 BCE)
21. 建元已來王子侯者年表 The imperial princes since the reign period Jianyuan
22. 漢興以來將相名臣年表 Persons in the highest state offices of Han
23.-30. Shu 書 Treatises 1-8:
23. 禮書 Li Rites
24. 樂書 Yue Music
25. 律書 Harmony and measurements
26. 曆書 Li Calendar
27. 天官書 Tianguan Astronomy
28. 封禪書 Fengshan The sacrifices to Heaven and Earth
29. 河渠書 Hequ Rivers and canals
30. 平準書 Pingzhun Equalizing agronomical matters
31.-60. Shijia 世家 Biographies of the Feudal Houses and Eminent Persons 1-30:
31. 吳太伯世家 The house of Wu Taibo
32. 齊太公世家 The house of Qi Taigong
33. 魯周公世家 The house of Lu Zhougong
34. 燕召公世家 The house of Yan Zhaogong
35. 管蔡世家 The houses of Guan and Cai
36. 陳杞世家 The house of Chen and Qi
37. 衛康叔世家 The house of Wei Kangshu
38. 宋微子世家 The house of Song Weizi
39. 晉世家 The house of Jin
40. 楚世家 The house of Chu
41. 越王句踐世家 The house of Goujian, King of Yue
42. 鄭世家 The house of Zheng
43. 趙世家 The house of Zhao
44. 魏世家 The house of Wei
45. 韓世家 The house of Han
46. 田敬仲完世家 The house of Tian Jingzhong, also called Wan
47. 孔子世家 Kongzi (Confucius)
48. 陳涉世家 Chen She
49. 外戚世家 Waiqi Empresses: Empress Lü 呂后, Empress Dowager Bo 薄太后, Empress Dowager Dou 竇太后, Empress Dowager Wang 王太后, Empress Wei 衛皇后, Empress Chen 陳皇后, Lady Wang 王夫人, Lady Li 李夫人, Ms Zhao called Lady Gouyi 鉤弋夫人趙氏
50. 楚元王世家 Prince Yuan of Chu
51. 荊燕世家 The houses of Jing [Liu Jia 劉賈] and Yan [Liu Ze 劉澤]
52. 齊悼惠王世家 Prince Daohui of Qi
53. 蕭相國世家 Prime minister Xiao He 蕭何
54. 曹相國世家 Prime minister Cao Shen 曹參
55. 留侯世家 [Zhang Liang 張良] Marquis of Liu
56. 陳丞相世家 Counsellor-in-chief Chen Ping 陳平
57. 絳侯周勃世家 Zhou Bo, Marquis of Jiang
58. 梁孝王世家 Prince Xiao of Liang
59. 五宗世家 Wuzong The Five Lines [of the five wives of Emperor Jing, i.e. his sons Liu De 劉德 (Prince Xian of Hexian 河間獻王), Liu E 劉閼 (Prince Ai of Linjiang 臨江哀王), Liu Rong 劉榮 (Prince Min of Linjiang 臨江閔王), Liu Yu 劉餘 (Prince Gong of Lu 魯恭王), Liu Fei 劉非 (Prince Yi of Jiangdu 江都易王), Liu Duan 劉端 (Prince Yu of Jiaoxi 膠西于王), Liu Pengzu 劉彭祖 (Prince Jingsu of Zhao 趙敬肅王), Liu Sheng 劉勝 (Prince Jing of Zhongshan 中山靖王), Liu Fa 劉發 (Prince Ding of Changsha 長沙定王), Liu Yue 劉越 (Prince Hui of Guangchuan 廣川惠王), Liu Ji 劉寄 (Prince Kang of Jiaodong 膠東康王), Liu Qing 劉慶 (Prince Gong of Liu'an 六安共王), Liu Cheng 劉乘 (Prince Ai of Qinghe 清河哀王), Liu Shun 劉舜 (Prince Xian of Changshan 常山憲王)]
60. 三王世家 The houses of the three princes [part of the sons of Emperor Wu, namely Liu Hong 劉閎 (Prince Huai of Qi 齊懷王), Liu Dan 劉旦 (Prince Ci of Yan 燕剌王) and Liu Xu 劉胥 (Prince Li of Guangling 廣陵厲王)]
61.-129 Liezhuan 列傳 Biographies and Collective Biographies 1-70:
61. 伯夷列傳 Boyi
62. 管晏列傳 Guan Zhong 管仲 and Yan Ying 晏嬰
63. 老子韓非列傳 Laozi, [Zhuangzi 莊子, Shen Buhai 申不害,] and Han Fei
64. 司馬穰苴列傳 Sima Rangju
65. 孫子吳起列傳 Sunzi and Wu Qi
66. 伍子胥列傳 Wu Zixu
67. 仲尼弟子列傳 Zhongni dizi The disciples of Zhongni (Confucius)
68. 商君列傳 Lord Shang Yang 商鞅
69. 蘇秦列傳 Su Qin
70. 張儀列傳 Zhang Yi
71. 樗里子甘茂列傳 Chulizi, Gan Mao [and Gan Luo 甘羅]
72. 穰侯列傳 The Marquis of Rang [Wei Ran 魏冉]
73. 白起王翦列傳 Bai Qi and Wang Jian
74. 孟子荀卿列傳 Mengzi and Xun Qing (Xunzi 荀子)
75. 孟嘗君列傳 Lord Mengchang
76. 平原君虞卿列傳 Lord Pingyuan and Yu Qing
77. 魏公子列傳 The son of the Duke of Wei [Lord Xinling 信陵君]
78. 春申君列傳 Lord Chunshen
79. 范睢蔡澤列傳 Fan Ju and Cai Ze
80. 樂毅列傳 Yue Yi
81. 廉頗藺相如列傳 Lian Po and Lin Xiangru
82. 田單列傳 Tian Dan
83. 魯仲連鄒陽列傳 Lu Zhonglian and Zou Yang
84. 屈原賈生列傳 Qu Yuan and Master Jia Yi 賈誼
85. 呂不韋生列傳 Master Lü Buwei
86. 刺客列傳 Cike The Assassins [Cao Mo 曹沫, Zhuan Zhu 專諸, Yu Rang 豫讓, Nie Zheng 聶政, and Jing Ke 荊軻]
87. 李斯列傳 Li Si
88. 蒙恬列傳 Meng Tian
89. 張耳陳餘列傳 Zhang Er and Chen Yu
90. 魏豹彭越列傳 Wei Bao and Peng Yue
91. 黥布列傳 Qing Bu [i.e. Ying Bu 英布]
92. 淮陰侯列傳 The Marquis of Huaiyin (Han Xin 韓信)
93. 韓信盧綰列傳 Xin, King of Han, Lu Wan [and Chen Xi 陳豨]
94. 田儋列傳 Tian Dan
95. 樊酈滕灌列傳 Fan Kuai 樊噲, Li Shang 酈商, Teng Ying 滕嬰 (Xiahou Ying 夏侯嬰), and Guan Ying 灌嬰
96. 張丞相列傳 Chief counsellor Zhang Cang 張蒼
97. 酈生陸賈列傳 Master Li (Li Yiji 酈食其), Lu Jia [and Zhu Jian 朱建]
98. 傅靳蒯成列傳 Fu Kuan 傅寬, Jin She 靳歙 and [the Marquis of] Kuaicheng [Zhou Xie 周緤]
99. 劉敬叔孫通列傳 Liu Jing and Shusun Tong
100. 季布欒布列傳 Ji Bu and Luan Bu
101. 袁盎晁錯列傳 Yuan Ang and Chao Cuo
102. 張釋之馮唐列傳 Zhang Shizhi and Feng Tang
103. 萬石張叔列傳 Wan Shijun 萬石君, [Wei Wan 衛綰, Zhi Buyi 直不疑, Zhou Wen 周文,] and Zhang Shu
104. 田叔列傳 Tian Shu
105. 扁鵲倉公列傳 Pian Que and Master Cang
106. 吳王濞列傳 Liu Pi 劉濞, Prince of Wu
107. 魏其武安侯列 [Dou Ying 竇嬰], Marquis of Weiqi, and [Tian Fen 田蚡], Marquis of Wu'an
108. 韓長孺列傳 Han Changru
109. 李將軍列傳 General Li Guang 李廣
110. 匈奴列傳 The Xiongnu [barbarians]
111. 衛將軍驃騎列傳 Cavalry general Wei Qing 衛青
112. 平津侯主父列傳 [Gongsun Hong 公孫弘], Marquis of Pingjin, and Zhufu Yan 主父偃
113. 南越列傳 The Southern Yue [barbarians]
114. 東越列傳 The Eastern Yue [barbarians]
115. 朝鮮列傳 Korea
116. 西南夷列傳 The barbarians in the southwest
117. 司馬相如列傳 Sima Xiangru
118. 淮南衡山列傳 The [imperial princes] of Huainan [Liu Chang 劉長] and Hengshan [Liu Ci 劉賜]
119. 循吏列傳 Xunli The benevolent officials: Sunshu Ao 孫叔敖, Zichan 子產, Gong Yixiu 公儀休, Shi She 石奢, Li Li 李離
120. 汲鄭列傳 Ji An 汲黯 and Zheng Dangshi 鄭當時
121. 儒林列傳 Rulin The forest of scholars: Gongsun Hong 公孫弘, Master Shen (Shen Pei 申培), Yuan Gu 轅固, Han Ying 韓嬰, Fu Sheng 伏勝, Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒, Master Humu 胡毋
122. 酷吏列傳 Kuli Cruel officials: Hou Feng 侯封, Zhi Du 郅都, Ning Cheng 寧成, Zhou Yangyou 周陽由, Zhao Yu 趙禹, Zhang Tang 張湯, Yi Zong 義縱, Wang Wenshu 王溫舒, Yin Qi 尹齊, Yang Pu 楊僕, Jian Xuan 減宣, Du Zhou 杜周
123. 大宛列傳 The country of Dayuan
124. 游俠列傳 Youxia Wandering knights: Lu Zhujia 魯朱家, Guo Jie 郭解
125. 佞幸列傳 Ningxing Flatterers: Ji Ru 籍孺, Hong Ru 閎孺, Deng Tong 鄧通, Zhou Wenren 周文仁, Liu Yan 劉嫣, Li Yannian 李延年
126. 滑稽列傳 Huaji Humorists: Chunyu Kun 淳于髡, You Meng 優孟, You Zhan 優旃, Dongfang Shuo 東方朔
127. 日者列傳 Rizhe Soothsayers: Sima Jizhu 司馬季主
128. 龜策列傳 Guice Diviners
129. 貨殖列傳 Huozhi Profiteers: Fan Li 范蠡, Zigan 子贛, Bai Gui 白圭, Wushi Guo 烏氏倮, Mr and Ms Zhuo from Shu 蜀卓氏, Cheng Zheng 程鄭, Mr Kong from Wan 宛孔氏, Mr Bing from Lu 魯邴氏, Dao Xian 刀閒, Mr Ren from Xuanqu 宣曲任氏
130. 太史公自序 Taishigong zixu Postface and autobiography of the Grand Scribe [Sima Qian]

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