The Grand Scribe’s Records: History of the First History of China

Tuesday, December 3, 2019   

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

LECTURE 11:00 AM  The Grand Scribe’s Records: History of the First History of China

Often compared to The Histories of Herodotus, The Grand Scribe’s Records (Shiji 史記 in Chinese) was the founding work of historical writing in China. Written by Sima Qian 司馬遷 around 100 BCE, Grand Scribe’s Records firmly established the structure and format of subsequent dynastic histories compiled since Sima Qian’s times until the end of imperial China. Instead of focusing on a continuous historical flow and year by year records, the massive work of 130 chapters and 526,500 characters dedicated much of its content to historical biographies giving prominence to key figures and events of the time.

The full translation of the work exists in modern Chinese, Japanese and Korean as well as Russian and French. Work on a first complete English translation was initiated by William H. Nienhauser, Jr., Halls-Bascom Professor of Classical Chinese Literature at the University of Wisconsin in 1989. Since then the group has grown to include scholars from the United States, Europe, and China who consistently meet every year. 92 chapters out of 130 have been translated, and not without the invaluable support from The Elling Eide Center that for the second consecutive year hosts the translation group meetings. Volume 6 of the translation to be published in 2020 will be dedicated to Elling Eide.

The presentation will serve as a general introduction to Grand Scribe’s Records. It will talk about the significance of the work, its textual history, as well as some issues of the translation. It will also introduce the Grand Scribe’s Records translation project that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Bio: Masha Kobzeva, Ph.D., is a visiting scholar at the Elling Eide Center researching on Sino-Korean cross-cultural interactions in the 3-5th centuries. Since 2010 she has been an active member of the Grand Scribe’s Records translation project currently translating two chapters for the upcoming volumes. She is also a managing editor of Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) journal.


Docents will lead guests through a tour of the library, living quarters, and Eide family history.

**GATES OPEN AT 10:30 AM**