This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. The king then sent Lord Hou to bargain. The last of the three principles of the Annals which I have men- tioned above, the theory of portents, had the most direct and obvious effect upon Ssu-ma Ch'ien's work. The age of Confucius was certainly such a period of decline and chaos. Therefore I follow along with the vulgar, floating and sinking, bobbing up and down with the times, sharing their delusions and madness. It has also been suggested that Ssu-ma Ch'ien was a Taoist, who therefore opposed the Confucian emperor on doctrinal grounds. With him began many of the policies and institutions that characterize later dynasties; with him also died many of the ideals of the late Chou and early Han.
Changes in methods of warfare, advancements in agricultural techniques, and the growth of trade all vitally affected the old feudal society. Of one thing they are all certain: there is nothing constant in human life but the eternal cycle of growth and decay, nothing sure but the nearness of death. The stronger and more prosper- ous of the feudal domains swallowed up their neighbors and grew steadily in size and might. Surrounded by primitive and unlettered tribes, they lacked any rival worthy of either admiration 12 The World of Ssu-ma Ch'ien or envy. According to Tung Chung-shu, the princess, like a proper widow, went into retirement for the rest of her life. According to tradition, most of the rulers of later dynasties were de- scended from the Yellow Emperor.
Sima Qian was a meticulous researcher who traveled widely throughout China in search of historical information. The chronological tables are graphs recounting the political history of China. At the very end of the chapter, he says: This is the book of The Grand Historian, compiled in order to repair omis- sions and amplify the Six Disciplines. The third characteristic of the thinking of Ssu-ma Ch'ien is his real- ism. We read constantly of Chinese and barbarians who speak with one another, of barbarians who settle in China, of Chinese who go to live among the barbarians, but seldom is there any suggestion of a language barrier separating the two.
New York: Columbia University Press. A subject who will go forth to face ten thousand deaths, giving not the slightest thought for his own life but hurrying only to the rescue of his lord—such a man is rare indeed! Again, though he paid high tribute to the Confucian golden ages, the days of the sage emperors Yao and Shun, Yii, Tang, and the founders of the Chou, he did not advocate any forced attempt to return to the ways of these times. But the theory gave Ch'ien an unusually fine opportunity to drama- tize and emphasize the flow of his narrative, and it seems to be this aspect of it, its potentialities as a means of vivid and often ironic com- ment, that interested him. For Ssu-ma Ch'ien felt that the facts of history, recorded just as he found them, told a story sufficiently interesting and instructive. Ch'ien was concerned, as we have already noted, that the reader, as he n8 The Form of the Shih chi followed the narrative of each individual state, should be aware of the relationship of its development to simultaneous developments in other parts of the country.
The unicorn is a beast of virtue. Emperor Wu realized that something must be done about Han re- lations with the Hsiung-nu. His point, which seems an acceptable one, is that by the time of Tzu-ying the situation had degenerated beyond hope of repair. Ch'eng's own theory, which I have followed, is that, although Ch'ien had hints and precedents of various types on which to base his work, the essential form of the Shih chi, with its five divisions, is his own creation. Both Confucius and he himself, according to Ch'ien, wrote out of the same impulse of despair and disillusionment and it is therefore entirely appropriate that both their works should end with the symbol of the unicorn, the beast of virtue untimely come. It may be inferred from Liu Chih-chi's statement, how- ever, that to get his material into the form of Basic Annals for each year for Kao-tsu and Hsiang Yii, Ssu-ma Ch'ien must have had to do consider- able rearranging.
Tallies and documents bestowed by the emperor when he awarded territories or privileges to distinguished subjects. Others might be devoted to famous inventors Morse, Edison, the Wright brothers; to the movie industry, with lives of out- The Form of the Shih chi 707 standing actors; to western pioneers and outlaws, etc. Like Herodotus, he felt it his business to record what people said, but not neces- sarily to believe it. They saw much great- ness fall, but they never discovered the greatness that does not fall and that rises up greater after every fall. The Chinese apparently did not consider such differ- ences to be of any great significance.
They clung to righteousness and were pure in their deeds … yet they starved to death … Robber Chih day after day killed innocent men, making mincemeat of their flesh … But in the end he lived to a great old age. From this it came to mean that which is decorated or adorned, as opposed to that which is rough and plain; hence it acquired the sense of elegance, refinement, or cul- ture. The Chinese state was not struck down by a jealous god or gods, but decayed from quite natural causes as its virtue and moral stamina declined. Every enemy I faced was destroyed, everyone I attacked submitted. How sudden was his rise to power! Equally significant is the way he relegated puppet rulers such as Emperor Hui to minor positions. Here we see Ch'ien expounding quite the opposite view, that men's failures are due primarily to their own faults and may not be wantonly attributed to Heaven or fate.
Now when you return you do not punish the offender. All of these are considered valuable and valid sources to this day, and Allen's thesis of Ssuma's forgery of portions of the Mencius and the Shu has been in no way substantiated by modern research. Beginning in the 420—589 and the 607—918 , a number of scholars wrote and edited commentaries to the Records. 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. I should like here to consider some other aspects of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's thought and its relation to the main currents of Chinese philosophy.
Sima mentioned at least 75 books he used for cross-checking. Xiang Yu once more galloped forth and cut down a Han colonel, killing some fifty to 100 men. The first chapter would relate the story of Leif Ericson, with speculations upon the reliability of his legend and gen- eral remarks on the difficulties of writing history. Another chapter, 129, he devoted to the great financiers of the past, for he recognized that success in business was one manifestation, albeit in his eyes a not very worthy one, of human in- 36 The World of Ssu-ma Ch'ien genuity, imagination, and freedom. But the peers of the Liu clan fared better. Yen Sui certainly was a good judge of character able to find loyal helpers! There was a rough, spirited, gaudy tone to the era.
For whom did it come? But if portents could signify blessing, they could also signify the opposite. Amazed by such munificence, Nish Cheng declined the gift. Too numerous to record are the men of ancient times who were rich and noble and whose names have yet vanished away. Its form is superficially imposed and does not spring internally from the nature of its material. Special mention should be made of the brief introductions which precede most of these tables. They were able, therefore, to do away with those laws which most offended the people, while retaining the good points of the Ch'in administrative system. Therefore they wrote about past affairs in order to pass on their thoughts to future ages.