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1. Just the facts

Synopsis: This is the story of the official Chinese court historians who refused to change what they wrote, each facing execution in turn. Day by day they recorded all court activities, including the Emperor’s words. These daily records were to be compiled into a true and definitive work of the Emperor's reign. History was meant as a mirror to avoid mistakes. The official historians defended the truthfulness of their accounts for the sake of future generations even against their current rulers and at the price of their lives.

Text: 《秉笔直书》北师大版第八册第一单元第3课

Advice to teachers: These official court historians are known as “shiguan” (史官),

2. Sima Qian’s indignant determination to write a definitive history

Significance: China has one of the longest and most voluminous records of history classics, sources and traditions in the world. Sima Qian (c. 145–85 BC), father of Chinese historiography, is renowned for his biographical Jizhuanti-style (纪传体) general history of China, Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史記). Sima Qian’s work is still respected as a model of biographical literature with high literary value.

Text: 《司马迁发愤写〈史记〉》 苏教版国标本第十册第三单元第12课

Advice to teachers: Jizhuanti-style histories are biographic-thematic works, in contrast with annals (biannianti编年体). The term jizhuanti is made up of imperial biographies (ji 纪), biographies of other people (zhuan 传), and style or form (ti 体).

3. Advice of a lifetime — mother of Sima Guang

Significance: Sima Guang (1019–1086 AD) was one of the most accomplished historians in Chinese history. Over 19 years, Sima Guang compiled the first annals of China, covering 403 BC to 959 AD. He was also a prime minister of the Song Dynasty, conservative and opposed to political reform, yet renowned for his integrity and loyalty to the country.

Sima Guang was well known for his intelligence at a very young age. When he was only seven, he and his friends were playing in the garden, when one child fell into a huge pottery water container and was drowning. While the other children wept or ran for help, Sima smashed the vessel with stones, saving the child.

Text: 司马光之母(聂氏):一生的忠告
Resources: 《关键词:母亲》

4. Harmony between General and Minister

The Beijing Opera “Reconciliation of the General and Minister” was adapted from a famous episode from Sima Qian’s “Shiji” (Records of the Grand Historian). This text is the third, and final part of the opera. General Lian, who has insulted Minister Lin, is persuaded to apologise and reconcile for the good of the state.

Text: 《将相和》  人教版课标本第十册第18课  浙教版第十一册第13课  沪教版第八册第35课  语文A版第十二册第18课  人教版第十二册第12课  冀教版第九册第20课  西师大版第十一册第32课  语文S版第十一册第26课  鲁教版第九册第13课

Alternative text 1 (script): Harmony between General and Minister - A Student Classroom Play 《将相和》课本剧

Alternative text 2: Carrying brambles on naked back to offer an abject apology
《负荆请罪》  苏教版第十一册第5课  湘教版第十二册第16课

Link: This item appears in multiple units: The Arts Unit: Beijing Opera  and Social Sciences Unit: The Historian’s Vocation.

Last updated: 16 April 2012

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