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Department of Chinese, NTNU
A Letter from Szu-ma Chien to Jen-An (司馬遷<報任安書>) is one piece of 《Collection of Chinese Literary Works》(《文選》). There are a lot of arguments about the first sentence in the letter stating that "The historian officer runs errands as cattle and horses." Scholars had quite different annotations on these six words. In this article, the writer has extensive analysis and textual research. Accordingly, the writer concludes that "the historian officer" did not refer to Szu-ma Chien's father, Szu-ma Tan (司馬談), nor did it represent "general government agency" or any kind of "honorific". "Running errands as cattle and horses" was neither a representation of "self-effacing" nor "self-compassion" concerning his toil as cattle and horses. It was rather a slip of the pen by "an errand leading horses." Regarding the Chinese character, the form of "cattle" (牛) is similar to "leading" (先). When respnded the letter to Jen-An, Szu-ma Chien introduced his official title as "an errand leading the royal horses". As a matter of fact, his existing position was "the chancellor". "The historian officer" was his previous position. Be it that the position of chancellor was supreme and honorable, it was nevertheless subject to the eunuchs. Szu-ma Chien introduced himself as "an errand leading the royal horses", which implied his suffering as being castrated by the Emperor. "An errand leading royal horses" was an entourage following with the emperor to make a tour. It was an allusion to the story of the King Kou-Chien (句踐), who endured all disgrace and insults in order to accomplish his task. The variation of the official titles reflected Szu-ma Chien's experience, and also related to his mental adjustment from humiliation to initiative. And finally, he had surpass his self-abasement and created a great masterpiece.
|Appears in Collections:||中國學術年刊|
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