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Shi Ji


Definition: The Shi Ji is the name given to an enormous history of China's dynastic empires, written between the end of the second century and the beginning of the first century BC by the legendary Han Dynasty scholars Sima Tan and his son Sima Qian. Also known as the Records of the Grand Historian, the Shi Ji recounts all of Chinese history up to that time, including the history of the Sandai, the first three big dynasties of Chinese civilization, the Xia (or Erlitou), Shang, and Zhou (or Chou) dynasties.

The ShiJi was not the first history of China (that was the Guo Yu, ca. 5th century BC) but it was the first universal history, and, as with other historical documents such as those of Herodotus or Pausanias the Traveler the Shi Ji has been found to be extremely useful in archaeological research, if read with a grain of salt.


Yan Menwing. 2001. The Cradle of Eastern Civilization. In Xiaoneng Yang (ed). 2001. In Chinese Archaeology in the Twentieth Century: New Perspectives on China's Past. Yale University Press, New Haven.

ShiJi, Records of the Grand Scribe, China Knowledge.

Two Biographies (6th Century BCE), at the Brooklyn College, English translation of part of the Shi Ji, including two biographical sketches of rulers from the 6th century BC.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Also Known As: Records of the Grand Scribe, Records of the Grand Historian

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