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Records of the Grand Historian: Sima Qian Paperback – 22 Jan 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 3rd ed. edition (22 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231081693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231081696
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 984,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
Totalitarianism is a concept we see as a product of modernity. The Marxist-Leninist gulags of the U.S.S.R, the Nazi concentration camps of the third reich or the Maoist cultural revolution. Yet these have not been the only ideologies with an emphasis on an all intrusive state. For just such an ideology existed in China 2200 years ago, and it's name was legalism. This was the basis for a unified state under the Qin dynasty, which although brief - it only lasted from 221 to 207 B.C.E - was a huge influence on the workings of Sima Qian magnum opus, the Shi Ji.
Throughout the book there are a number of characters who jump out at us - the rather tragic Lu Buwei, the Machiavellian totalitarian legalism Li Si, who laid the foundations for China, the violent and sociopathic eunuch Zhao GAO, and of course, the megalomaniacal first emperor himself. - few of these characters are sympathetic, but oh are they interesting.
It is rather ironic that this book should indeed have been written at all. The First emperor and his chancellor Li Si set out on a vigorous book burning crusade, to purge all that was contradictory to the regime and wasn't necessary. This was a big inspiration for Sima Qian's work.
So why, you might ask, did I rate this four stars rather than five? The work itself is a classic, deserving of five stars, however there parts - not many it may fortunately be said - which have been omitted from this addition, most notable the first five records, dealing with pre-Qin china.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars ... will find this book interesting but I do not recommend it for the casual reader 12 Nov. 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am sure the serious China scholar will find this book interesting but I do not recommend it for the casual reader.

I bought this book thinking it was the Asian equivalent of Suetonius's Twelve Caesars or Herodotus' Histories, but it reads more like an eastern version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles; pages of very dry entries along the lines of "...in the twelfth year, Lord Shu of Wu declared war on Lord Wu of Shu..." and the like (compare and contrast with "..in the twelfth year, King Engelbert of Essex declared war on King Dagobert of Sussex ..."). My initial impression was either Sima Qian wasn't as good of a writer as everyone said he was, or Burton murdered the translation. Then I read the appendix with the letter Sima Quan wrote from prison and I revised upward my opinion of both men. The problem must be Sima Quian was writing an official state history while Suetonius and Herodotus weren't. Considering what the Emperor did to Sima Qian just because he disagreed with him on a policy matter, I shudder to think what would happen if he wrote something that really offended the Emperor.

The only other problem I have with the book is it is over priced. Maybe I am spoiled by too many Penguin Classics, but I think $37 for the whole 3 book series would be more fair rather than for just on volume.
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually, Adeline Ma's masterly memoir was a much more ... 28 Oct. 2016
By Austin Elliott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Actually, Adeline Ma's masterly memoir was a much more engaging way of presenting some small parts of this book than actually reading the real thing. This translation was very readable.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 1 Feb. 2015
By Richard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A masterly translated Chinese classic.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4/5 16 Jan. 2014
By Elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave this a 4/5 not because the book wasn't good or it was faulty, or anything like that. It's just really hard to read. If you don't know much about this dynasty, or China in general, this isn't the book for you. Concepts aren't really elaborated upon to refresh your memory, or give you an insight as to what the person did or who they were. Great material and compact if you know a lot about this topic.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Qin, an amazing Emperor, loved and hated by the Chinese. 8 Jun. 2014
By readerkate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after having visited his tomb and the Xian warriors. Am Emperor who unified China, his story is recounted by Sima Qian who searched high and low for records relating to the first Emperor of China. He wrote in about the 2nd century BC and records mostly battles and intrigues, biographies and a final letter regarding his reasons for finishing this history which was begun by his father. I will let you find out why.
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