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Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty Paperback – April 15, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0231081696 ISBN-10: 0231081693 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 3rd edition (April 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231081693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231081696
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese

About the Author

Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese. His translations include The Lotus Sutra, The Vimalakirti Sutra, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By edward gresser on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I agree with everything the previous reviewer said, except that it is in print again as of 1999.
This is a five-star translation of a five-star book - China's first major work of history, dating from 90 BC. The Qin portion makes up only fifteen or so of the Shi Ji's 130 chapters, but tells the story central to the moral vision of the whole work. This is the rise and collapse of China's first imperial dynasty - Qin is in fact the name from which we derive "China."
The book is a remarkable commentary on human pride, intrigue, strategy and revenge; it also has an eye for detail and anecdote. To cite just one case, a minister is humiliated and driven from his kingdom; and ultimately takes revenge, as prime minister of a neighboring kingdom, by forgiving his persecutor, inviting him to a banquet, and then forcing him eat a meal of hay and water. There is also a detailed description of the tomb of China's First Emperor (the central figure of this book, whose career becomes exemplary of the folly of brutality and suppression of free thought); which has since been made famous by the discovery of the ceramic army of Xian.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tatiana Danger on June 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sima Qian was appointed grand historian of the Emperor Wu's court in 108 B.C. In his Records of the Grand Historian he describes the events which he witnessed or heard of that occurred during his lifetime, which offers the modern historian a fairly accurate account of a contemporary historian of the Han Dynasty. He composed his records from conversations he had with courtiers. In addition, he also consulted a plethora of documents and files which were stored in the palace as well as having had the ability to interview generals which enabled him to comment on the military institutions of the Han Dynasty.
Sima Qian had the ability to accompany the emperor on his visits to the provinces where he was able to record the "barbarian" tribes and lands which were brought under Han rule by Emperor Wu. In Sima Qian's records we also have evidence of the penal system and the conditions in the prison system. Qian wrote very detailed descriptions of these penal conditions for he had an intimate experience with them, having been punished for his "attempting `to deceive the emperor'" (xii). He was accused of using "veiled" words in his description of Emperor Wu, which was Qian's way of criticizing the emperor using language and words that were not outright critical, but inferred disapproval of the emperor and his actions.
The purpose of his official history is to record things so that the people who will be reading the history will be able to understand their past. This need to understand where one comes from helps states and individuals determine how and why they got to where they are. He organizes his accounts thematically, he discusses the military, generals, and he offers a geographic and ethnographic account of the peoples in the various "barbarian" provinces as well.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
While I am no scholar of Chinese history or language, Watson's translation of Sima Qian's Shi Ji is an excellent read. Watson has grasped the nuances of the Chinese language, implementing them well into his work. This volume (along with his other volumes pertaining to the Han dynasty) displays the history of China through the eyes of one of its participants, the grand historian Sima Qian. Watson documents his work well, and the book is an overall pleasure to read. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in Chinese history, both as an indispensible reference as well as a most pleasurable read. It is quite a shame that this particular volume is out of print, but perhaps at another time..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Britt-Marie Backman on October 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Written about one hundred years after the events 2kYs ago, it is less far from the truth than fanciful stories of later times. And much more enciting, exciting, alive. Depressing as well if you like, as you could only change the names and get a rather accurate description of the feuds and cruelties during the crusades or even Saddam Hussein & Co.
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