Son Of Sima Tan – Prefect of The Grand Scribes Of Emperor Wu

10656-sima_qianSima Quan, son of Sima Tan, was born near Hancheng, Shaanxi, during the Han Dynasty (approximately 100 BC) into a family of historians, following in his fathers footsteps to the successors of Emperor Wu as Prefect of the Grand Scribes. A student of Confusious Kong Anguo and Dong Zhongshu, his major contribution was the Shiji which included detailed biographies of emperors, royal houses, defining aristocrats, time lines as well as essays on various contemporary issues.

Traveling throughout China, he began to accumulate a rich historical record of early Chinese History including the lives of notables, extracting discoveries from ancient monuments and records kept throughout the land. He explored rumors and myths, encountering the facts within legend and becoming well respected among his contemporaries and succeeding academics, influencing prose in Chinese literature. He compiled an impressive complement to his father’s major work, Annals Of Spring And Autumn, the first chronicle of Chinese Literature, when his father lay dying summoning Quan to his deathbed, expressing his wish that he complete his work.

Sima Quan began his epic with Yellow Emperor Huangdi (2697 BC to 2598 BC), establishing credible records, reliable interpretations of facts in an objective and scholarly manner revealing the life of the emperor who would create the foundation for Ancient Chinese Medicine and emerged as the chief deity of Taoism.

He became embroiled in the Li Ling Affair, a conflict between two military officers of the emperor Han Wudi against the Xiongnu (present day Mongolians), defending Li Ling when he was condemned. The emperor interpreted his defense as a personal attack on the royal house, sentencing Sima to imprisonment and death if he did not pay money to have his sentence commuted.

When he was released three years later, he completed his work, refusing to commit suicide as was custom. His record of the event describes: “The losses he [Li Ling] had formerly inflicted on the enemy were such that his renown filled the Empire! After his disgrace, I was ordered to give my opinion. I extolled his merits, hoping the Emperor would take a wider view, but in the end it was decided I was guilty of trying to mislead the Emperor.”

“I had not the funds to pay a fine in lieu of my punishment and my colleagues and associates spoke not a word in my behalf. Had I chosen suicide, no one would have credited me with dying for a principle. Rather, they would have thought the severity of my offense allowed no other way out. It was my obligation to my father to finish his historical work which made me submit to the knife. If I had done otherwise, how could I have ever had the face to visit the graves of my parents?”

A moral dilemma, struggle of ethics, political intrigue and sacrifice. A sweeping story of life set in the culturally rich history of ancient China, entailing consequences for son of Sima Tan – Prefect Of The Grand Scribes Of Emperor Wu.