Records of the Grand Historian of China

Recordsof the Grand Historian of China

SimaQian was a minister during the Han dynasty. He functioned as one ofEmperor Han’s aide. During his reign, the Xiongnu civilization wasa serious threat. He recorded a great a great deal of the Xiongnupeople’s history. However, his perspective is quite biased againstthe Xiongnu society, as he was loyal to the Han Empire. The author’sbias can be proven by his impartiality on giving credit to thebarbaric people. The following essay is an analysis of Sima Quin’sanalysis as can be proven by the book.

Qianis a chauvinist because he asserts that the Xiongnu people wereliving a primitive lifestyle. He criticizes the civilization’sbackwardness as they solely relied on nomadic pastoralism, while theycould also have ventured in other forms of economic activities suchas agriculture. Furthermore, he describes them as retrogressivepeople because they had no cities or permanent dwellings. They justmoved from one place to another in search of better pastures fortheir animals. “Theymoved about in search of water and pasture and have no walled citiesof fixed dwellings nor do they engage in any form of agriculture(P. 155).” His description of the community’s organizationportrays it as very backward, poor, and non-inventive. Apparently, hewas comparing the Xiongnu civilization with the Han dynasty. He ischauvinist because he believes that developed societies such as theHan Empire were supposed to practice agriculture, permanentdwellings, and walled cities like the ones that protected the HanDynasty.

Writingwas a sign of a developed society. Qian asserts that the Xiongnuwere backwards because they made verbal treaties while othercommunities such as the Han Dynasty had already discovered writtenagreements. In fact, he claims that the records of the people arerare because they had no historians or methods of preserving ancientinformation. “Theyhave no writing, and even writing and promises are only verbal(P. 156).” Furthermore, the author emphasizes his chauvinismthrough asserting that the Xiongnu’s language lacks euphemism. “Theyonly have personal names and no respectful names for various classesof people, as was the case in the Han Dynasty. They have no politenames, but only personal names (156).” He also portrays the backwardness of the community in that thestepsons were supposed to marry their mothers at their father’sdeathbed. However, the brothers of the deceased man could alsoinherit widows some instances. Qian portrays chauvinists bycriticizing this marriage system, while it was intended to ensurepeaceful coexistence of all the people. In addition, the wifeinheritance was intended to ensure that he wife of a widowed personwill easily find a husband who would accept her, perhaps with grownchildren. In societies that lacked strict policies, controllingmarriages and raising fatherless children found it difficult to getmarried into another home with offspring of another man. “Onthe death of his father, a son will marry his stepmother, and whenbrothers die, the remaining brothers will take the widows to theirwives(p. 156).” The main objective of permitting close relatives in thesociety was to guarantee continuity of clans.

Anestablished education system for the children portrays a society asadvanced. Qin criticizes the Xiongnu civilization since the malechildren starts training using bows and arrows. This implies thatchildren in the community were trained fighters, but with they lackedformal education. However, Qin fails to recognize that the communityperhaps had some form of oral education. In addition, trainingchildren on war skills was valuable to the community considering thatthey served as archers during times of war. The nomadic lifestyleoccasionally involved forceful eviction of the other communities.These reasons justify the significance of training of introducingchildren to military training at early stages. “Thelittle boys start out by learning to ride sheep and shoot birds andrats with a bow and arrow, and when they get a little older theysbegun shooting foxes and hares, which are used for food (p.157).”

Theauthor’s chauvinism makes him portray the military training asbrutal and unnecessary. For example, Mo’Tun killed the soldierswho failed to shoot or beat the enemies he instructed them to shoot.Nonetheless, Mo’Tun was justified to use excessive force includingkilling the soldiers, who failed to comply with his orders. “Accompanyinghis father, the shan –you T’ou-man on a hunting expedition, heshot a whistling arrow at his father and all his followers shot theirarrows towards the direction and shot the shan-yu dead(p. 161).” Although Mo’Tun used crooked means to eliminated hisfamily members and take over leadership, he had to kill his rivals inorder to maintain the Xiongnu people united and powerful militarily.

Lastly,Qin portrays chauvinism through portraying the reverence of theelderly persons towards the youth.The old, physically challenged,and the sick could only eat after the youth had eaten to their fill.The reason motivation for allowing the youth to take the best food isthat they can have the strength for seizing cattle and conquering newterritories. “Theyoung men eat the richest and best food, while the old eat what isleft over, since the tribe honors those who are young and strong anddespises the weak and aged(p. 156).” The occasional fights the community often participatedimplied that it required a big number of experienced soldiers.However, Qin illustrates the culture as disrespectful to the society.

Insummary, Sima Qin is a chauvinist, thus he portrays the Xiongnucivilization in a crooked way. The text describes the civilization asbackward, and one that embraces backward cultures. For example, hepoints out that the culture lacks respectful titles for differentpeople, has no writing technique, and established economic activitiessuch as farming. Nevertheless, the society had other means ofcompensating the missing features such as writing. They embraced oralcommunication of information from one person to the other.


Watson,Burton. Recordsof the grand historian of china: Translated from the Shih chi of SSU-MA CH’EN.New York and London. N.d.