With Part I of the two-part fifth volume of Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s Shi chi (The Grand Scribe’s Records), we enter the world of the shih chia or "hereditary houses." These ten chapters trace the history of China’s first states, from their establishment in the 11th century B.C. until their incorporation in the first empire under the Ch’in in 221 B.C. Combining myth, anecdote, chronicle, and biography based on early written and oral sources, many no longer extant, the narratives make for compelling reading, as dramatic and readable as any in this grand history.
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