Paper #2 - Sima Qian

Paper #2 - Sima Qian - Carl Lotus Becker, historian at...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Carl Lotus Becker, historian at Cornell University, once said, “All historians, even the most scientific, have bias, if in no other sense than the determination not to have bias.” Becker was stressing the point that formation of a biased account is inevitable in any reporting of history, even if the historian has the goal in mind to produce a completely objective account. If a given historical account is comprised solely of pure facts and actual conversations (and includes no interpretations or summarizations) the account is still susceptible to bias by way of the specific facts and conversations that were chosen to be included. In this way, a historian can influence how we perceive a given period of history by what he has chosen to include and what he has chosen to leave out. Thus, a record of history not only provides information of the past, but it also serves as a reflection of the historian’s own perceptions. This is not just a modern phenomenon, but has been a part of the history recording process for nearly as long as people have been recording history. In fact, the ancient Chinese historians selectively included and carefully organized portions of history as a strategic method to bring about a specific point or message. As such, many accounts of Chinese history also provide insight to the historian’s own perceptions of the past, as well as the influences received by the historian from their own time and culture. Some of the greatest examples of this phenomenon are displayed through the works of one of the most prominent Chinese historians, Sima Qian. Sima Qian’s records of Chinese history provide more than just a simple history of China, but they also offer insights into the ideologies of his own time through his desire to fulfill the role of the historian and his apparent attempt to resolve an anomaly he discerned in his own life, as well as throughout history. In order to understand exactly how and why Sima Qian’s record of history was influenced by his strong desire to resolve an apparent inconsistency, it is pertinent to first recognize the time and culture in which Sima Qian lived. Sima Qian was born in 145 B.C. during the Han dynasty of China (Bloom and DeBary, 369). The Qin dynasty had ruled China immediately prior to the Han, and prior to the Qin dynasty, China existed as only a collection of feudal states (the Warring States Period). During the Warring States Period (479-221 B.C.) the state of Qin emerged as the most powerful of the states and relied on a legalist doctrine, stressing military power and establishing the emperor as an all powerful position that did not require
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
legitimization through support of the people. In essence, this legalist philosophy was the direct opposite of Confucian ideology, which focused on human relations and supported the formation of a government that was answerable to the people, and not vice versa. As the Qin state grew in power, it eventually overtook the other feudal states, and established the first empire, unifying
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This essay was uploaded on 04/05/2008 for the course EALC 110g taught by Professor Hayden during the Spring '07 term at USC.

Page1 / 13

Paper #2 - Sima Qian - Carl Lotus Becker, historian at...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online