The Letter To Ren An And Sima Qian’s Legacy by Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, Michael Nylan, Hans van Ess

By Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, Michael Nylan, Hans van Ess

Sima Qian (first century BCE), the writer of list of the Historian (Shiji), is China's earliest and best-known historian, and his "Letter to Ren An" is the main recognized letter in chinese language historical past. within the letter, Sima Qian explains his selection to complete his life's paintings, the 1st finished heritage of China, rather than honorably committing suicide following his castration for "deceiving the emperor." within the 20th and twenty-first centuries, a few students have queried the authenticity of the letter. Is it a real piece of writing via Sima Qian or an early paintings of literary impersonation? The Letter to Ren An and Sima Qian's Legacy presents a whole translation of the letter and makes use of varied how you can discover concerns in textual heritage. It additionally indicates how rules approximately friendship, loyalty, factionalism, and authorship encoded within the letter have far-reaching implications for the learn of China.

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Extra info for The Letter To Ren An And Sima Qian’s Legacy

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To put the matter directly, Sima Qian did not deem it necessary to include a biography of Ren An in Shiji, but Chu Shaosun did. Esther Klein tucks away the following important questions in a footnote: “Why was it that Sima Qian did not write about Ren An? Why was it that Chu Shaosun did? Is it not surprisingly convenient that Chu has given us so much information about Sima Qian’s correspondent? ’”28 Yes, this is suggestive, but one could 40 chapter 2 just as easily ask why Chu Shaosun, if he knew about the Letter, would not have mentioned it somewhere in his Ren An biography.

My somewhat tortuous search for the most plausible timing of the Letter makes two very questionable assumptions: first, that it was actually written for delivery to a man in prison awaiting execution and, second, that it truly derives from Sima Qian’s hand. Whatever one might ultimately conclude about the second of these assumptions, I believe it highly implausible that the intended recipient of the Letter could have been Ren An.  . ”15 The modern historian Lu Yaodong has also suggested that the Letter was not really intended for Ren An and that it could never have been made public during the lifetime of Emperor Wu.

Had I bowed to the law and accepted the death penalty, it would have seemed of no more importance than a single hair lost from the hides of nine oxen. In what way would I differ from an ant or a mite? 35 Rather it would assume that I simply could not extricate myself from the net of the law and so went to my death, my wisdom exhausted and my crime so extreme. Why is that? It is the position in which I have established myself that would make them think this. Surely, a man has but one death. That death may be as heavy as Mount Tai or as light as a goose feather.

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