With Part I of the two-part fifth volume of Ssu-ma Châienâs Shi chi (The Grand Scribeâs Records), we enter the world of the shih chia or "hereditary houses." These ten chapters trace the history of Chinaâs first states, from their establishment in the 11th century B.C. until their incorporation in the first empire under the Châin 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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