Sima Qian and His Records of the Historian
The author of Records of the Historian is Sima Qian (145 BC-?), who was born in what is now Shaanxi Province. Encouraged by his father, he began to read ancient books when he was still very young. At the age of 20 he started to travel extensively, and gathered a great deal of material on ancient celebrities. Later, he was appointed to an official post, and often went on tours with the emperor.
Not long after his father's death, Sima Qian succeeded to his position as the official in charge of historical records. Thus he had the opportunity to read many books and made a great many notes. In 104 BC, Sima Qian commenced his Records of the Historian. Falling foul of the emperor, he was punished and dismissed from office. From that time on, he devoted all his time to his life's work.
Records of the Historian is composed of 130 chapters. It starts from the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), and ends with the reign of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty, spanning 3,000 years. It was the first comprehensive biographical history book to appear in China. It covers a wide range of subjects, political, economic, cultural, military, etc. Its language is terse and lively, and easy to understand. Records of the Historian is not only a valuable historical work, but also an outstanding work of literature.