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The First Emperor

Jonathan Spence, 2 December 1993

Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty 
by Sima Qian, edited and translated by Burton Watson.
Columbia, 221 pp., $50, June 1993, 0 231 08166 9
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... with historians, there is no doubt they would soon agree that there was only one true candidate, Sima Qian (?145-?89 BC), author of the Shi Ji, or ‘Historical Records’. Sima Qian’s claim to greatness rests on a number of interconnected factors. He was, first, immensely ambitious. He designed his masterwork ...

Little Emperors

Yun Sheng: Memoir of an Only Child, 19 May 2016

One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment 
by Mei Fong.
Oneworld, 250 pp., £12.99, January 2016, 978 1 78074 845 0
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China’s Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy 
by Kay Ann Johnson.
Chicago, 218 pp., £16, March 2016, 978 0 226 35251 0
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... around for kindling, but were forced to use books to start a fire: the complete collection of Sima Qian’s Shi Ji (Records of the Grand Historian) went up in flames. He told me he’d wept with shame after they finished the radish soup. ‘I burned Sima Qian because I’d yielded to the demands of my ...

After Nehru

Perry Anderson, 2 August 2012

... soul. No major chronicles appear till the 12th century, over a millennium later than Herodotus or Sima Qian, and no histoire raisonnée as a cumulative body of writing ever emerged. Gandhi’s dictum dismissing the worth of any memory of the past – ‘history is an interruption of nature’ – is a famous modern expression of this outlook. In such a ...

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