Sometime around 100 BCE, Sima Qian (c. 145-87 BCE), a former court official and political prisoner, completed a work of history begun by his father, Sima Tan (died c. 110 BCE), which he called “Records of the Grand Historian” (Shiji). This work set the pattern for historiography in the classical Chinese language, a narrative form which contrasts in many ways with the norms of modern history writing. At the same time, Sima Qian dealt with many of the same questions that perplex modern historians: how do we explain causation among seemingly unrelated events? How do the circumstances of the historian’s life shape their writing? How do we understand gaps in our sources? In this class, we will reflect both on traditional Chinese historical practice and on our own. In the first part of the class, we will discuss the world into which Sima Qian was born and the kinds of historical writing that were current before his transformative work. In the second part, we will read excerpts from the Records of the Grand Historian. In the third part, we will investigate his influence on Chinese historical writing in both its official and unofficial forms. Finally, we will experiment with writing in Sima Qian’s narrative style ourselves.