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The Shiji, or Historial Records, is one of the earliest and most prominent Chinese official dynastic histories. Written by Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE) during the Western Han Dynasty, it relates the history of China from the time of the legendary Yellow Emperor down to Sima's own time.

Begun by Sima Qian's father, the text is divided into five sections: Basic Annals, Chronological Tables, Treatises, Hereditary Houses, and Memoirs. The Memoirs include biographies of many prominent individuals, as well as of non-Han peoples, and the Treatises include essays on a variety of topics ranging from rites to a discussion of the Yellow River to economics, calendrics, and astronomy.

The text makes extensive use of quotations from earlier documents, and is careful to note distinctions between narrative accounting and Sima Qian's personal remarks. Its format and style serves as a model for many later histories, including the Book of Han by Ban Gu, another of China's earliest and most acclaimed histories.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 58.