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This is not simply one more out of the many works that have already been written on the Shiji, the “Records of the Scribes” or perhaps “Historical Records,” authored by the two Western Han historians Sima Tan (?–110 BCE) and his son Sima Qian (c. 145–c. 86 BCE). It is rather the joint effort of about a dozen established scholars of the field to approach this early masterpiece of both historiography and literature with some refreshingly new questions and working hypotheses.
The authors of this volume originally gathered at a conference entitled “Shiji and Beyond,” organized by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation International Sinological Center in Prague in December 2011. This was the third conference on the Shiji in a series started by Professor Lee Chi-hsiang at Fo Guang University in Taiwan in 2008. Its organizers have tried to bring together scholars who have been actively promoting Shiji studies in Taiwan, the US, Canada, and several European countries.
The majority of the papers presented at the Prague workshop are collected here. They are now divided into two sections entitled “Views from Within” and “Views from Beyond.” Such an arrangement seems plausible to the editors, because almost all of the papers either have their main focus on a reading of the text itself or look at its later reception.