In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Views from Within, Views from Beyond: Approaches to the Shiji as an Early Work of Historiography eds. by Hans van Ess
  • Carine Defoort (bio)
Hans van Ess, Olga Lomová, and Dorothee Schaab-Hanke, editors. Views from Within, Views from Beyond: Approaches to the Shiji as an Early Work of Historiography. Lun Wen, Studien zur Geistesgeschichte und Literatur in China 20. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2015. vi, 296 pp. Hardcover €58.00, isbn 978-3-447-10476-0.

This is a collection of papers concerning the Shiji "Records of the Scribe" or "Historical Records" and its two authors, the Han court scribes or astronomers Sima Tan (d. 110 b.c.e.) and his son Sima Qian (ca. 145–ca. 86 b.c.e.). The papers were presented at a Shiji meeting with Western and Taiwanese scholars in 2001. They are case studies, mostly focusing on one or more sources. Together they provide a lively expression of the detailed discussions held in the field. The monograph is divided into two parts: "Views from Within," focusing on a reading of the text, and "Views from Without," looking at its later reception. With such a complex and long-studied text as the Shiji, this distinction is neither clear nor easy to make.

Part 1 begins with Berhard Fuehrer's study of Sima Qian as a reader of Confucius's sayings. On the basis of a detailed analysis of primarily chapters 47, "Kongzi shijia," and 67, "Zhongni dizi liezhuan" (not chapter 65, as the introduction states), Fuehrer demonstrates that the connection between the sayings attributed to Confucius in the Shiji and in the Lunyu cannot be easily unraveled. But the Shiji is undeniably the earliest extant hermeneutical attempt to interpret the words and deeds of Master Kong. Next comes Juri Kroll's study of the concept of time in the Shiji. Inspired by the opposite views of such authorities as Marcel Granet and Joseph Needham, the author argues that in the Shiji time is neither simply cyclical [End Page 73] nor only linear. Like in other Han sources, there is a clear interest in long-term and even trans-dynastic developments of clans and connections between ancestral founders and later generations. Lee Chi-hsiang's chapter, printed in Chinese, treats Sima Qian's view of the Zhou dynasty. The author argues that the division between Western and Eastern Zhou generally associated with King Ping (770–720 b.c.e.) is actually an invention of the Eastern Han dynasty. The Shiji identifies the break in the Zhou dynasty rather with the political instability under King Li (877–841), when power devolved away from the Son of Heaven to regional rulers, to their grandees, and ultimately to local administrators. In "The Friends of Sima Tan and Sima Qian," Hans van Ess stays away from the presumed ideological preferences of father and son Sima (Tan usually associated with Daoism and Qian with Confucianism). Instead he looks at their personal connections and possible informants. While trying to use these data to attribute the authorship of specific parts to either father or son, van Ess concludes that both were influenced by their informants' dislike of the imperial family because of wrongdoings done to these informants or their ancestors. In the fifth chapter Li Wai-yee tries to identify Sima Qian's historical method by looking at chapter 110, "Xiongnu liezhuan." Identifying and tracing ancestral links, she demonstrates how his comprehension of the "changes from past to present" expresses a view of the Xiongnu as being related to the Han people. While this view does not consistently support a policy of accommodation, it does express Sima Qian's rejection of Emperor Wu's tendency to dehumanize the Xiongnu with his policies of centralization and expansion. Next, Giulia Baccini studies chapter 126, "Guiji Liezhuan," as a source of rhetorical strategies. Between its preface and concluding appraisal, there are eight stereotypical anecdotes concerning three pre-Han persuaders using witty stories to indirectly transform the ruler. Chapter 126 continues with a long addition by Chu Shaosun (ca. 105–30 b.c.e.) containing contemporary cases of Han Wudi's times. That addition has influenced the reading of the whole chapter with the result...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 73-76
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.