The “Letter to Ren An,” presents a piece of literature that indicates Si-ma Qian`s search for character and his desire to uphold purity. The work clearly shows his wish that he be judged by purity in all his undertakings. The “Biographies of the Assassins” and “the prince of Wei” are educative works used by Sima Qian to demonstrate his attitude. He writes history in a unique way and presents a discussion into one of the greatest records that archives the Chinese way of life. From the two biographies, it is evident that Sima Qian believes that man has an opportunity to define his character by choosing the right actions. In this respect, people should be cautious of the choices that they adopt. It is acknowledgeable that the aspect of being right or wrong depends upon the societal perspectives and beliefs; thus, Sima Qian argues that personality is formed through social interactions, which also guide an individual’s perception towards right and wrong.
The narration of King Zhao represents how Sima Qian shares his ideas through literature. For example, in the narrative, King Zhao has different ideas and interests for the kingdom. His interests however are different from those of other individuals in the kingdom. King Zhao would like to reign in his kingdom for a longer time but there are forces within the kingdom who are rising against the king and also want a portion of leadership. The personality of King Zhao is unique because he appears to be wise and humble in his leadership. The differing intentions and activities depict the situation in modern societies. Additionally, these examples show us how man should be judged. For King Zhao, he serves in a position of leadership and authority thus his actions should be based upon his position of leadership. His intentions are to rule and continue exercising his authority over people. On the other perspective, these examples bring man closer to understand the purpose of living a god life with good intentions. Intentions guide an individual to the right purpose. The narratives indicate that with a strong will and purpose for a common goal, individuals who work and live with good intentions leave behind strong reputations. In this case, the intentions of man can be understood and derived from their situation and their understanding about the situation. King Zhao is a leader and he understands the need for good leadership. In this case, he does not allow his situation to become the determinant of how he deals with people. In this perspective, it is evident that also the character of an individual will differ from the situation, which they find themselves.
Sima Qian draws the reader’s attention by focusing on the nature of man. The biographies revolve not only among the leaders of man but also among the different encounters that man has in his life and how these encounters favor his positioning in the future. Over time, man goes through different encounters, which determine the quality of his actions as either good or bad. For example, the servants in a ruler’s house are expected to be humble and serve the King. They should be loyal to their master who is also the king. Although other individuals may rise against the King and try to over through his leadership, the employees, and other individuals working around the King should not support his fall. The aspects of loyalty and faithfulness should be seen evidently in an organized manner. At the same time, good and evil will always be described from the understanding of man.
According to Sima Qian, an example of a leader who is not able to provide for his people or to protect them will ultimately lose his kingdom to overthrowing or other leaders. In order to continue maintaining one seat of leadership, it is significant to maintain a power balance. In this case, the leader should understand that he or she needs to continue being in power whilst maintain a close relationship with the people around him. Furthermore, it should be clear that the approach to leadership should be followed in order to maintain the balance. These two approaches enable a leader to receive information from his followers. It also ensures that the leader is not thrown out of his throne due to an uprising. Furthermore, the leader manages to overcome all challenges of leadership by having his people close to him.
Sima Qian utilizes the narratives and bibliographies to depict how men through different generations have only had different experiences but not different taken different actions. The question of good or evil continues to arise as different individuals describe these factors differently. For example, man has had a greedy nature in terms of accumulating wealth to himself and searching for ways to defeat other people around him. In this case, the case of kingship shows that battles have been fought in the past just for land annexation and territorial expansions. The greed and urge to survive has been seen as the best way to survive because man competes to be the best. Furthermore, kingdoms fight and rise against each other in order to have dominance over a wide area. For example, the enemies Han and Wei were defeated due to the battle, which comes about due to greed. Man appears not to understand the importance of working together. Clearly, it is in the nature of man to take actions in life based upon his greed and urge to dominate over his enemies. Being a historian means that Sima Qian saw the world from a different angle from most of the people. As such, he aspired to compare the different generations that had come before him. Furthermore, he tried to ensure that the comparison of these generations would result to good results.
Humanity loves to preserve its culture. One of the best ways to do this is through acquiring a method of passing on the recorded culture to different generations. The future needs to know what happened in the past as well as exchange ideas. The most suitable way is through narratives and bibliographies which present an idea to the world about how past generations lived. According to Pizer, the best way to preserve knowledge and ideas for the world is through sharing the literature and enabling individuals to understand different cultures. One does not have time or the resources to travel the world and experience all the cultures and social settings. However, man has an opportunity to overcome the challenges of life by understanding how other cultures handle different situations. Furthermore, exchanging cultures is possible through exchanging ideas and literature thus making individuals to become better. Pizer maintains that experiences are global and should be shared by all individuals in the processes of cultural exchange. Casanova also sees that it is possible to ensure that future generations are well informed by writing letters to the future. With these letters, it will be possible for the current generations to inform the future generations. Furthermore, it will be possible for each generation to preserve the ideas from the past and pass on to the future. Although Casanova is an academician in the field of literature, he seems to seek a connection between the past and the future thus he advocates the use of letters to the world and the future.
The significance of learning history cannot be emphasized considering the ability of the practice in empowering humanity. It is evident that man needs to learn because history has repeated itself and will continue to repeat itself. Furthermore, nobody knows what the future holds, thus everybody that should have a purpose for the future. A generation that learns history is essentially empowered because individuals are able to learn from past mistakes to build a better future. Furthermore, individuals from such a generation are able to avoid repeating mistakes that caused earlier generations a downfall. In this respect, there is the need of fostering and promoting a culture and practice that emphasizes the significance of historical records.
“Biographies of the Assassins” Nie Zheng. (Owen, 152)
Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Trans. M. B. DeBevoise. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Pizer, John. The Idea of World Literature: History and Pedagogical Practice. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.
The Prince of Wei (Owen, 145).