In Father of Chinese History, Esther Klein explores the life and work of the great Han dynasty historian Sima Qian as seen by readers from the Han to the Song dynasties. Today Sima Qian is viewed as both a tragic hero and a literary genius. Premodern responses to him were more equivocal: the complex personal emotions he expressed prompted readers to worry about whether his work as a historian was morally or politically acceptable. Klein demonstrates how controversies over the value and meaning of Sima Qian's work are intimately bound up with larger questions: How should history be written? What role does individual experience and self-expression play within that process? By what standards can the historian's choices be judged?
Esther Sunkyung Klein, Ph.D. (2010), Princeton University, is a lecturer in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney and a visiting researcher (2018) in the Department of Philosophy at the Australian National University. She also researches topics in early Chinese philosophy and medieval Chinese historiography.