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Worlds of Bronze and Bamboo : Sima Qian's Conquest of History - Grant R. Hardy

Worlds of Bronze and Bamboo

Sima Qian's Conquest of History

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Sima Qian (c. 100 B.C.E.) was China's first historian -- he was known as Grand Astrologer at the court of Emperor Wu during the Han dynasty -- and, along with Confucius and the First Emperor of Qin, was one of the creators of imperial China. His "Shiji" (published for Columbia in a translation by Burton Watson as "Records of the Grand Historian") not only became the model for the twenty-six Standard Histories that the historians of each Chinese dynasty wrote to legitimize the dynastic succession, but also has been an enormously influential resource to historians, literary scholars, philosophers, and many others seeking an understanding of early Chinese history. In "Worlds of Bronze and Bamboo, " Grant Hardy presents convincing evidence that the "Shiji" is quite unlike such Western counterparts as the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, for, Hardy argues, Sima Qian's work seeks not only to represent but to influence the world in a manner based on Confucian concepts of sageliness and "the rectification of names."

Although many scholars have sought close parallels between Sima Qian and the Greek historians -- either criticizing Sima's work, as if Western models of historical interpretation could serve as a template by which to read it, or overemphasizing his "objectivity" to more closely align his text with these "respectable" Greek models -- Hardy boldly contends that the Chinese historian never intended to produce a consistent, closed interpretation of the past. Instead, Hardy argues, the "Shiji" is a microcosm in which Sima Qian sought to represent the open-endedness and multivalence of the world around him, revealing and reinforcing the natural order.

In mapping out this model of the world, Sima embodies the historian as sage rather than chronicler. Transcending mere accuracy in recording events, such a historian seeks not to present an opinion about what happened in the past, buttressed with rational arguments and pertinent evidence, but to penetrate the outer details of an incident and discover the moral truths it embodies. Thus intuiting the moral significance of events, the sage-historian delineates the Way and offers his readers a chance to become more in tune with the natural order.

Illustrating his provocative theses about the "Shiji" by analyzing Sima Qian's handling of specific historical personages and episodes such as the First Emperor of the Qin, the hereditary house of Confucius, and the conflicts that ended with the founding of the Han dynasty, Hardy both extends and challenges existing interpretations of this crucial yet understudied text and sheds light on its puzzles and incongruities.

Hardys work should become the first book consulted by scholars of the Western tradition who want to know something about Sima Qian and how he is to be positioned with regard to their own historiographic tradition.

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introduction: Why History?p. 1
The Role of History in Chinese Culturep. 5
Sima Qian and Historyp. 14
Representing the Worldp. 27
The Structure of the Shijip. 29
Reading the Structurep. 42
A Bamboo Worldp. 48
Microcosmic Reading Ip. 61
The Web of Historyp. 62
Multiple Narrationsp. 73
Microcosmic Reading IIp. 86
The Significance of Eventsp. 87
Assessing Generalizationsp. 102
Shaping the Worldp. 114
Judgmental Historyp. 115
The Shiji as a Hermeneutical Toolp. 127
Transforming the Worldp. 136
Confucian Reading Ip. 142
Guiding Interpretationp. 142
Chronicling the Sagep. 153
Confucian Reading IIp. 169
A World of Bronzep. 170
Contesting the Worldp. 184
Understanding the Worldp. 194
Fitting the Timesp. 195
The Limits of Rationalityp. 202
Knowing and Being Knownp. 209
Epiloguep. 213
Notesp. 219
Glossaryp. 263
Bibliographyp. 277
Indexp. 289
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780231113045
ISBN-10: 0231113048
Audience: Professional
For Ages: 22+ years old
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 6th July 1999
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 16.51  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.58