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Chinese History Writing Between The Sacred And The Secular

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the texts that had lasting impact on Chinese historiography, namely the canonical Chunqiu and its commentaries, and the first of the so-called "official histories," the Shiji. It then outlines the cultic origins of the Chinese historiographical tradition and suggests that the Chunqiu should be understood primarily as a ritual rather than a historical text. Then, by analyzing two of the most important Chunqiu commentaries, the Zuo commentary and the Gongyang commentary, the chapter traces the bifurcation of history writing between the "secular" and the "religious" traditions. Finally, by briefly addressing the Shiji, the chapter shows that while this text belongs largely to what the author defines as a secular historiographical tradition, the invention of the genre of biographies by its author, Sima Qian, added a new quasi-religious dimension to the Shiji and to the historical genre as a whole.

Keywords: Chinese historiography; Chunqiu commentaries; Gongyang commentary; history writing; religious traditions; Shiji; Zuo commentary



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