What Ssu-ma Ch'ien is referring to here, I believe, is the air of rude, hearty simplicity which characterized the early Han rulers and their administration. Such an arrangement seems too ordered to be accidental, and we must admit that here the Chinese symbolists are sound in their inter- pretation. He was thus forced to chase back and forth among these and other scattered materials at hand to try to reduce his narrative to some sort of unified chronological order. This is because a vassal is not permitted to summon the Son of Heaven, says the Kung-yang, and the Tso agrees. The dynasty began a new life with its capital not at Ch'ang-an but at Lo-yang, farther to the east; the period known as the Latter or Eastern Han began. Then he sent men to taunt and insult them for five or six days, until at last the grand marshal Cao Yiu, in a rage, led his soldiers across the Si River.
My aim in thisjntroduction has been to describe in brief some of the main features of the span of history covered by the Shih chi, and it would seem appropriate to end my description where the Shih chi ends, with the reign of Emperor Wu. Now when you return you do not punish the offender. If a scholar or a knight found that his talents were not being recognized and used, that he was not getting ahead as he had hoped, it was time for him to look for a new employer. In other words, the bad points of each man are revealed only in the chapter devoted to his rival, while his own chapter is designed to present him in the most favorable light. Now although I should try to add glory and fame to myself, or with fine words seek to excuse my error, it would have no effect upon the vulgar.
In The Columbia History of Chinese Literature. To many men of his day it must have seemed that a golden age had arrived when the ancient rites and ceremonies described in the Classics would again flourish, the virtue and blessing of the Chinese monarch would flow out over his people and beyond the borders to the unenlightened barbarians, and Heaven would send down auspicious tokens of its favor. But the Liu rulers grew increasingly weak and ineffective so that in 9 A. In the night Xiang Yu heard the Han armies all about him singing the songs of Chu. The chronicle makes frequent mention of these occurrences, which, according to the commentaries, are all 84 Beginnings of Chinese Historiography brought about by misrule or disorder in human society. Although Pan Ku adopted most of the formal divisions of the work of his predecessor, he made one vital change in its scope by limiting the range of his history to the span of one dynasty, the Former Han. While other biographies give us vital information on the states- men of the period, we must consult the treatises for an understanding io8 The Form of the Shih chi of the economic background of the war and the question of slavery.
The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary to the reign of in the author's own time. But the Shih chi tradition of writing biographies not merely of men who were important in their own times but of men whose lives exemplified a transcendent moral greatness continued to exercise its influence in Chinese literature. Sima mentioned at least 75 books he used for cross-checking. All of these works except the Genealogical Origins Shih pen and the Spring and Autumn of Ch'u and Han Ch'u-Han ch'un-ch'iu are still extant. Because it is the first month of the King. Therefore this section has been taken to represent the first member of the Chinese trinity, heaven, whose number is twelve.
And he was keen enough to discern in the changes that took place during his lifetime the death of many of the ideals of the past that he most admired. Furthermore it not only endured as a private family, continuing through the generations to perform sacrifices to its illustrious ancestor; as the ages passed, Confucius came to receive the sacrifices and homage of important officials, nobles, and even em- perors as well. Finally, the Confucians were dissatisfied with the way the emperor conducted religious affairs, particularly the Feng and Shan sacrifices. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. This theory was an integral part of Han thought, accepted to one degree or another, it seems, by rulers, bureaucrats, and philosophers alike. Next morning, when the king of Han became aware of what had happened, he ordered his calvary general Guan Ying to lead a force of 5,000 horsemen in pursuit. Again, from its meaning of patterns it came to signify writing and all the advancements associated with writing and literature.
For what virtue did he deserve this? Feudal lords performed sacrifices to which they were not entitled, or abolished the sacrifices of conquered states, and yet no enraged manes visited supernatural wrath upon them. That year, his father fell ill due to the distress of not being invited to attend the Imperial Feng Sacrifice. Feudal rulers assumed noble titles to which they theoretically had no right, and with them they usurped the rites appropriate to the titles. He opposed the gov- ernment monopolies and speculations for the same reasons the Con- fucians did because the pursuit of profit was not a fit concern of rulers, and because these activities brought suffering to the people. The various references to this supernatural aid or Mandate of Heaven in the Shih chi might be dismissed by apologists as no more than a literary convention, a manner of speaking that Ch'ien carried over from an earlier and more superstitious age, were it not for one famous pas- sage. But the Shih chi is provided with no index and, although a few sim- ple cross-references are found, the unwary reader who tries to dip into it for a particular set of facts is apt, if he is not careful, to be led woe- fully astray.
An official who spent all his life at court in the service of the emperor, he knew the true situation as few men of his period did. The form of the book further bears out this supposition. The central court and its satellites, the old feudal families, con- tinued to grow weaker, while families that had been ministers and retainers to the feudal lords grew so powerful that they overthrew their former masters. Too numerous to record are the men of ancient times who were rich and noble and whose names have yet vanished away. Truly it makes me sick at heart! The Ch'un-ch'iu fan-lu of Tung Chung-shu is important not only because of its influence upon Ssu-ma Ch'ien but also because it represents a step between the Kung-yang Commentary itself and the standard commentary on the Kung-yang by Ho Hsiu of the Latter Han.
The second 104 The Form of the Shih chi large section is divided into eight chapters with eight subsections each; eight being the number assigned to the second member of the trinity, this section has been taken to represent the affairs o earth. But these early works are all character- ized by a single objective; their purpose is not to record the life of an individual, but to present his teachings, to set forth the doctrines of a school of thought. Yet these stories, he notes, not only are not authenticated by the Con- fucian Classics, the final judge of reliability, but are inconsistent with reason and good sense. Neither the patterns nor the theories which attempted to explain them were his own creation. Cheng Ch'iao 1108-1166 , another Sung historian who produced a monu- mental history of the past modeled on the Shih chi form, argues in the preface to his work that the history of a single dynasty is meaningless and without value unless it is seen in terms of the eras which preceded and produced it. It was published by Nabu Press and has a total of 290 pages in the book.
Therefore they wrote about past affairs in order to pass on their thoughts to future ages. Together we became a sight for all the world to laugh at in scorn. First, he was interested in genealogy, in the fortunes of one family. Our enlightened Ruler did not wholly perceive my meaning, But supposed that I was trying to disparage the Erh-shih General and plead a special case for Li Ling. They insisted that the government should concern itself with higher ideals than the pursuit of profit. The benign reign of Emperor Wen had permitted ample scope for the exercise of individ- ual freedom, but in doing so it had dangerously weakened the power and unity of the state.
To one seeking in the Shih chi the subtle verbal judgments of the Annals, this inconsistency in the use of such key terms must suggest either a shocking lack of sensitivity upon Ch'ien's part, or an attempt to convey through apparent inconsistency some even more subtle mean- ing. But the reason I have not refused to bear these ills and have continued to live, dwelling in vileness and disgrace without taking my leave, is that I grieve that I have things in my heart which I have not been able to express fully, and I am shamed to think that after I am gone my writings will not be known to posterity. In particular, archaeological finds have confirmed the basic accuracy of the Shiji including the reigns and locations of tombs of ancient rulers. Records of the Grand Historian of China. The stronger and more prosper- ous of the feudal domains swallowed up their neighbors and grew steadily in size and might. He was writing in- evitably under the influence of the Spring and Autumn Annals, and the remarkable thing is that he managed to free himself as far as he did from its more inimical precepts. Pre-Ch'in literature contains many tales of such men who rose from humble and obscure origins to be- The World of Ssu-ma Ch'ien 21 come great military and political leaders in this period, and the lieh- chuan or biographical section of the Shih chi, written almost entirely under the influence of this code of ideals, by recording and preserving the great deeds of these men, rewards them for all time with the prize they sought, fame.