The Letter to Ren An and Sima Qian’s Legacy

Hardcover | March 9, 2016

byStephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, Michael Nylan

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Sima Qian (first century BCE), the author of Record of the Historian (Shiji), is China’s earliest and best-known historian, and his "Letter to Ren An" is the most famous letter in Chinese history. In the letter, Sima Qian explains his decision to finish his life’s work, the first comprehensive history of China, instead of honorably committing suicide following his castration for "deceiving the emperor." In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, some scholars have queried the authenticity of the letter. Is it a genuine piece of writing by Sima Qian or an early work of literary impersonation?  The Letter to Ren An and Sima Qian’s Legacy provides a full translation of the letter and uses different methods to explore issues in textual history. It also shows how ideas about friendship, loyalty, factionalism, and authorship encoded in the letter have far-reaching implications for the study of China.

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Sima Qian (first century BCE), the author of Record of the Historian (Shiji), is China’s earliest and best-known historian, and his "Letter to Ren An" is the most famous letter in Chinese history. In the letter, Sima Qian explains his decision to finish his life’s work, the first comprehensive history of China, instead of honorably co...

Stephen Durrant is professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Oregon; Wai-yee Li is professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University; Michael Nylan is professor of history at University of California, Berkeley; and Hans van Ess is professor of sinology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munchen. 

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:190 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 9, 2016Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295995440

ISBN - 13:9780295995441

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The ‘Letter’ comes alive in this joint endeavor. This rich volume sheds much new light on early Chinese manuscript and epistolary culture, Han dynasty political ideology and social ethics, traditional Chinese views of authorship, and, last but not least, our understanding of Sima Qian as a seminal writer, thinker, and historian. - Yiqun Zhou, author of Festivals, Feasts, and Gender Relations in Ancient China and Greece