Sacred Texts Confucianism Taoism

Ssuma Ch'ien

[Sima Qian]

[c. 145-90 B.C.E.]

Ssuma Ch'ien was one of the greatest historians in all of Chinese history, and in fact the first great historian of that civilization. It is telling that even at his early date his history was still thousands of pages (and years) long. The entire corpus of his writings has still not been translated into English, and the amount that is in the public domain is apparently quite small. It is felt that at least some of Ssuma's writings are relevent to sacred-texts due to the close connections between the official Imperial cults and the philosophical and historical labors of China's literati during the 2,000+ years of the Empire. Also, the first three chapters of the work are directly concerned with China's mythology and legendary history and in large part recapitulate and expand on the documents of the Shu.

The first three chapters of Ssuma's history were translated by Herbert J. Allen in 1894-5 for the expressed purpose of discrediting Ssŭma Ch‘ien as a historian, the Shu Ching as a source document, and all of ancient Chinese history as recorded by the Chinese. All of these are considered valuable and valid sources to this day, and Allen's thesis of Ssuma's forgery of portions of the Mencius and the Shu has been in no way substantiated by modern research. But, while his work is tainted by hostility, it is one of the only public domain sources for Ssuma, and perhaps the only English-language translation of these early chapters. The introductory chapter is in itself a valuable source for the meagre field of Chinese creation mythology.

Introductory Chapter: includes the Introductory chapter by Ssŭma Chêng [c. 720 C.E.], Original Record of the Three Sovereigns and Ssŭma Ch‘ien's first chapter, Original Record of the Five Gods.
Chapter II: The Hsia Dynasty.
Chapter III: The Yin Dynasty.
Anecdotes from Sze-ma Chien on Lao-Tze and Chuang-Tze, from The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, Volume XII: Medieval China, ed. Charles F. Horne, 1917, pp. 396-398, translator not stated.