Sima Qian (ca. 145-86 B.C.)Sima Qian (ca. 145-86 B.C.) - China's greatest historian, he is considered the father of Chinese historiography. He is to the East what Herodotus is to the West. Virtually his entire life was lived under the reign of Wudi (another name for Emperor Wu), whom he knew personally since his father, Sima Tan, was the emperor's chief astrologer. Tan saw to it that his son received the best education the royal court had to offer. He studied under two famous Confucian thinkers, Kong Anguo and Dong Zhongshu. When he was old enough, Sima Qian himself was in charge of the imperial library and a central figure in reforming the Chinese calendar. His magnum opus, the Shiji or Records of the Grand Historian, was actually begun by his father. When Tan died in 110 B.C., his son took up his father's work and would eventually complete it. It was a record of Chinese history from its foundation up to his time. After his father's death, Qian eventually replaced him as the court's astrologer. However, the Li Ling event destroyed his relationship with Emperor Wu and nearly ended his life. In 99 B.C., two generals, Li Ling and Li Guangli, led an expedition against the Xiongnu in the north and were defeated. Wu blamed Li Ling for the disaster and all his advisers obediently fell into line. All except Sima Qian. He had the nerve (or guts) to defend Li Ling. Emperor Wu summarily condemned Sima Qian to death. The sentence could only be commuted by a payment of money or castration and imprisonment. Since Qian did not have the money, he had no choice but to accept the latter. He was castrated and thrown into prison. After three years he was released and considered suicide over the humiliation he suffered. But he had not yet completed his work on the history of China and was determined to do so. It is to the world's benefit that he did. Fortunately, it has survived to the present and is an invaluable historical document.