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History, Novel, Fable and Historical Biography: On the Literary Genres of Sima Qian's Shiji

Abstract: It seems simple to tell the literary genre of Sima Qian's Shiji(Historical Records), but in reality it implies how to inherit the value orientation of the unique Chinese narrative cultural heritage inShiji.If theShijiis merely classified into literature genre and its historical value is denied, undoubtedly, it is a serious misreading of its genre and value negation.But if we only categorizetheShijiinto history,we will inevitably err for intentional misreading and aesthetic value negation.We will not advocate the use of the western “biography” to define the genre of Shiji, because the term is not flawless, especially in contrast to Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, which is the prototype of a western biography, but in the emphasis on empirical history conception, it has almost lost its historical value. However, Shiji makes a difference. It is more appropriate to use the unique ChineseHistoricalBiographyto define the genre of Shiji than to use the generalized biography, so as to eliminate the confusion of the cross-over identity of Shiji, at the same time, it also unequivocally manifestsits unique generic value among history, literature and even philosophy.

Keywords: Shiji;history; novel; fable; genre

Authors: Wang Chengjun, Ph.D., Professor of World LiteratureatJiangsuNormalUniversity and the director of Comparative Poetics and Comparative Culture Research Center of JSNU, has published many books such as Biographical Poetics, etc.

Zhu Ying is a postgraduate student of comparative literature and world literature at JSNU. She edited Celebrity Biography. The paper is part of the work in the Project “On the Discourse Pattern of the 20th Western Autobiography Theory,”sponsored by China National Social Science Fund (IN: 13 BZW018)and the Second Phase of Jiangsu High Education Developed Disciplines Construction(Jiangsu Government [2014]37).