Ssu-ma Ch'ien (145--ca. 86 B.C.) served for several decades as an official at the court of the Han Emperor Wu (r. 141--87 B.C.). From about 104 B.C. until his death he was involved in the compilation of a mammoth historical project that resulted in this history which came to be known as the Shih chi (The Grand Scribe's Records).William H. Nienhauser, Jr., is the Halls-Bascom Professor of Classical Chinese Literature at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. He is author of The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (IUP, two volumes, 1985; 1998) and editor of five previous volumes of The Grand Scribe's Records.