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The Letter to Ren an & Sima Qian's Legacy

Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, Michael Nylan, Hans Van Ess
Format
Book
Published
Seattle ; London : University of Washington Press, [2016]
Language
English
Variant Title
Letter to Ren An and Sima Qian's legacy
ISBN
9780295995441, 0295995440
Summary
"'Surely, a man has but one death. That death may be as heavy as Mount Tai or as light as a goose feather. It is how he uses that death that makes all the difference!' So wrote Sima Qian (first century BCE), author of Record of the Historian (Shiji), the first comprehensive history of China's past, in his 'Letter to Ren An.' In this, the most famous letter in Chinese history, he explains his decision to finish his life's work, the first comprehensive history of the Chinese past, which was begun by his late father, rather than to honorably commit suicide following his castration for 'deceiving the emperor.' The authenticity of the letter, which is included in Sima Qian's biography in Ban Gu's (CE 32-92) History of the Han Dynasty, has been debated for millennia. Is it a genuine piece of writing by Sima Qian addressed to a fellow sufferer who was himself languishing in prison and would die in 91 BCE? Or is it a very early work of literary impersonation whereby Ban Gu or a still earlier author sought to elucidate Sima Qian's reasoning through an epistle? Conceived as a text for Chinese history courses, this compact volume provides a full translation of the letter (along with the original Chinese text) and uses different interpretations of this key document to explore issues in textual history, epistolary culture, Han politics, and Han thought. It shows how ideas about friendship, loyalty, factionalism, and authorship encoded in the letter have far-reaching implications for the study of China"--Provided by publisher.
Contents
  • Han dynasty emperors
  • The letter to Ren An : English translation
  • Seeking answers, finding more questions / Stephen Durrant
  • Dissent against Emperor Wu of the Han / Hans van Ess
  • Friendship and other tropes in The letter to Ren An / Michael Nylan
  • The letter to Ren An and authorship in the Chinese tradition / Wai-yee Li
  • Appendix: The letter to Ren An : Chinese text
  • Glossary of Chinese characters.
Description
xi, 178 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Notes
Includes bibliographical references (pages 159-168) and index.
Technical Details
  • Access in Virgo Classic
  • Staff View

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    a| Han dynasty emperors -- The letter to Ren An : English translation -- Seeking answers, finding more questions / Stephen Durrant -- Dissent against Emperor Wu of the Han / Hans van Ess -- Friendship and other tropes in The letter to Ren An / Michael Nylan -- The letter to Ren An and authorship in the Chinese tradition / Wai-yee Li -- Appendix: The letter to Ren An : Chinese text -- Glossary of Chinese characters.
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    a| Sima, Qian, d| approximately 145 B.C.-approximately 86 B.C. v| Correspondence.
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    a| Sima, Qian, d| approximately 145 B.C.-approximately 86 B.C. x| Criticism and interpretation.
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    a| Sima, Qian, d| approximately 145 B.C.-approximately 86 B.C. x| Authorship.
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    a| Sima, Qian, d| approximately 145 B.C.-approximately 86 B.C. x| Influence.
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    a| Chinese letters x| History and criticism.
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    a| China x| History y| Han dynasty, 202 B.C.-220 A.D.
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    a| China x| Politics and government y| 221 B.C.-220 A.D. v| Sources.
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    a| China x| Intellectual life y| 221 B.C.-960 A.D. v| Sources.
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    a| Li, Wai-yee, e| author.
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