Sima Qian was a writer and astrologer of Han dynasty. Han dynasty was a highly structured society, and people were classified into three classes. The emperors were at the higher level than all three classes, and had absolute power when the dynasty began. However, the emperor guradually began to lose power as the wards and rebellions. Sima Qian lived life in the middle of Han dynasty while the structure of the society was about to corrupt. Sima Qian’s works are still highly rated and are used in literary and historical textbooks. His works are valued even today, since his works cover the historical figures, which were not covered by the writers before then, and also uses literary techniques that have been used from then on. Looking at his works, one can explore the individuals that were not given spotlights at the time, such as Jing Ke, Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who have failed at their tasks or their duties, not to mention the rulers who come before his time. His works are large in knowledge, depth and volume. Since his works are abnormally high in quality, one can also conclude his values on certain things. In this paper, I will illustrate how his personal life had affected his work, and how one can analyze his intelligence from his work.
First of all, Sima Qian’s works reflect his personal life, since one can spot on his Confucianism and his kind attention on those historians who failed.
Sima Qian was born to an astrologer family. His father, Sima Tan served as the Court Astrologer. His duties included managing the imperial library and maintaining or reforming the calendar. Since his father started to train him at the age of ten, Sima Qian was well reserved and familiar with old writings. He was studying with Kong Anguo and Dong Zhongshu, the two famous Confusions.
When he was twenty, Sima Qian started a journey throughout the country. Although it is unknown why and with whom he took this journey, but the destinations are known in details, including visiting ancient monuments, and seeking for the graves of the ancient sage kings Yu in Kuaiji Mountain and Shun in Hunan. He visited the places including Shandong, Yunnan, Hebei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Hunan, most of which are related to the cultures of the classics studies. Although it is not certain in terms of which time, but after the travel, Sima Qian was chosen to be a Palace Attendant in the government. At the time, there were two ways to take that position: either being a child of the attendant of 2000 Shi, or to pass an exam. Since his father is said to have just 600 Shi, he is thought to have passed the exam, which is also evident in the classical language education he got from the early stage of his youth. His duties were to inspect different parts of the country with Emperor Wu. In 110 BC, when he was thirty-five, Sima Qian was sent west on a military expedition against some tribes.
In the same year, his father became sick. Suspecting his time was running out, Sima Tan forced his...