Sima Qian and Han Historical Writing


SimaQian and Han Historical Writing


The history of China pays tribute to Sima Qian, who was the greatesthistorian in the Wu-di court. This paper compiles the biasness andevils experienced in court, which were expressed in the form ofwriting by Sima Qian.


SimaQian is the writer of the great historical works in China. Hisfather, Sima Tan, inspired him to study and read many books in Handynasty. Eno (2010) argues that the court employed Sima Qian becausehe was an activist, as well as an astrologer. The court requiredsomebody who could record what was going on in the government as wellas explain the heavenly ideas using his astrological skills. SimaQian writing materials were obtained from great poets and his formervisits to Confucian schools. His ideas were generated from his visitsto the rivers and mountains.

SimaQian gathered historical data and folk tales, which enriched hiswritings. He also had an advantage of being appointed as courthistorian where he accessed as many books as possible.


SimaQian did not deserve to be jailed, castrated, mutilated, laughed at,and wounded among many other punishments. Below are the supportingarguments:

Roleof Historical Writings

SimaQian and Han historical writings served the role of promoting stylesand manner of the noble people and ensuring that these morals areefficient. He hoped to be called a sage within a century. This isbecause his writings consisted of conversations between Confuciansand rulers of feudal states. Eno (2010) postulates that Sima had goodorganization of data he recorded it in line with familiar literary,including conceptual patterns. He opposed heavens from China usinghis correlative yin-yang cosmology, which was used to map theXiongnu.

Thesewritings also inspired the writing career of Confucian. The writingsalso contained recollections of most conversations between Confucianand rulers of feudal states. He visited these states duringperipatetic phase of his teaching career.


SimaQian sought to achieve his father’s writing wishes. The objectiveof these writings was to look for audience from rulers so that theywould employ him to practice his vision.

Thegrand historian writings focused on the interpersonal relationshipsand their practicability. He also indicated how to cultivatepositive relationships with other people.

Argument1. Sima Qian did not Deserve Punishment

SimaQian’s heart did not deserve to be wounded through undergoingpunishments, such as castration. This is because he was a goodadvisor who taught people good morals and virtues. From his letter toRen An, he argues that self cultivation marks wisdom. He advisespeople to share humanity amongst themselves (Warrington, 2014). SimaQian had good moral judgments and reactions. He managed to pursueChinese values in that he was humble, generous and respectful to allpeople. He was influential in countries like China, Japan, and Korea.

Hiswritings were compiled in jail where he had been imprisoned afterfalling out with the Emperor. Warrington (2014) argues that despitehis service in the court, he was sentenced to death. Sima Qian was sopoor to the extent that he had to be castrated to evade death.

Thepunishments he faced in jail provoked him to write to the rulers’ministers and people as a whole. His letter to Ren indicates that hesuffered a lot before dying in the hands of a merciless emperor whosent him to jail. In jail, he was mutilated. His punishments were tosweep the floor and weed.

Argument2: Sima Qian deserved to be employed as a ruler

Confuciushad special qualities, such as his morals were noble and was readilyacceptable by Junzi. The three most important attributes includefilial devotion (xiao), Humaneness (ren), and ritual decorum (li).

Thisargument is supported by the fact thatrulersobtained information about how to build strong relationships with thepopulation so as to gain many votes from his writings. His role wasalso to inform the ministers on how to react towards the government(Warrington, 2014). Example is that Confucian concentrates on theconduct of Junzi – which meant a gentleman who is superior and noble.He further explains that a noble man is committed to his personallife and has good morals. He is also a careful leader.

Chin(2010) argues that people who longed to become funzi were faced withstrict requirements that required them to be morally upright, havepositive attitude towards people and be well motivated. The writingsalso contained terms, such as de that signified charismatic power.Their position required them to be of good and acceptable virtues(Warrington, 2014). Sima Qian thought that by writing about thecharacteristics of the noble person, the western leaders would changetheir evil behaviors as well as the citizens. In his book, he advisesthe rulers to be affiliates, human and be ritually decorated. SimaQian’s history addresses the political state and the biases of thecontemporary discussions in Xiongnu. He also wanted to improve theway the military leaders were selected. He explains that the Yi andDi were the causes of disaster. They were greedy and desired to gainmaliciously (Eno, 2010). They had human faces but instead their handsresembled that of beasts. The rulers have different diets, garments,and language. He argues that they must not be cut off but if theybecame righteous they must be guarded and received courteously.

Argument3: Sima Qian did not deserve the inhuman acts which includedcastration

In his writings, he argues that if people practiced to be filial,the whole society would be changed for the better (Chin, 2010).Rulers are supposed to treat the citizens as they would wish to betreated. The rights of the people are explained by the rulers toexpress their virtues and moral power. This makes people have a senseof dignity and responsibility towards everybody. In his letter, heindicates that he has hopes of broadening the perspectives of therulers.

Therituals practiced by people assist them in ordering their lives. Theconcept of heaven is gained individually from people’s rituals.Confucian observes that people do not always understand heaven andhow it functions (Eno, 2010). However, Confucian believes that peoplehave natural homes, and heaven is the longer and larger frame thatrewards for the right actions.

Fromthe above literature review, Sima Qian did not deserve all theinhuman acts done to him. Warrington (2014), states that Sima Qian inhis letter to Ren advises him to take care of his affairs and be in aposition to employ able bodied men in offices. He explains that hisbody parts are mutilated and that he is living in great disgracebecause of being castrated.

Inconclusion, Sima Qian communicates his messages to the readers usingmemoirs, letters, and metaphors and appraisals. These forms ofwritings are applied as ethical paradigms that were used to separatethe world into civilized and uncivilized. Warrington (2014) statesthat people were ignorant of the rituals performed. These were mainlyto warn the people. Metaphors such as Yi were appraisals used todisrupt the central states.


Chin,T. (2010). Defamiliarizing the foreigner Sima Qian’s ethnographyand Han-Xiongnu marriage diplomacy.Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies,2(70), 311-354.

Eno,R. (2010). Sima Qian and our view of early China. IndianaUniversity History,4, (12), 1-13.

Warrington,H. (2014). Fiftykey thinkers on history.New York: Routledge publishers.