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Eastern Historiography

In Asia the writing of history was concerned with the recording of events, chiefly as chronicles, annals, or archives.

China

In China by the middle of the Chou dynasty, histories of the royal house and of the various states (notably the Shu Ching, or Document of History, and the Annals of Lu by Confucius) were being compiled. Ssu-ma Ch'ien (d. c.87 B.C.) wrote the first general history of China; his work was the model for later dynastic histories. He was followed in the 1st cent. A.D. by Pan Ku, compiler of the History of the Former Han. Under the T'ang dynasty, imperial commissions completed or compiled eight standard histories to fill in the period from the Three Kingdoms. A pioneer collection of early inscriptions was made, and Ssu-ma Kuang wrote (1066–84) an integrated history of China from 403 B.C. to A.D. 959. The Manchu rulers were noted for fraudulent histories glorifying their past. Critical treatment of Chinese history was forwarded in the late 19th and early 20th cent. with the work of Kang Youwei, Wang Xian Qian, and Wang Guowei.

Japan

Japan's early tradition of historiography was derived from China. About the 3d cent. A.D. the Japanese began to keep imperial archives, and an accurate chronology was developed by the early 6th cent. The Kojiki (early 8th cent.) purported to be a history of the royal line since mythological times. It was supplemented by the more detailed Nihonshiki, which was continued to the end of the 9th cent. by five official histories. In the 17th cent. Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628–1701) started to compile a history of Japan modeled on the Chinese dynastic histories; supplements appeared until 1906. Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) was the leading figure in a movement to revive Shinto and imperial prestige; his commentary on the Kojiki was completed in 1798.

India

Surviving Indian records date from the 6th cent. B.C., when anthologies were being made from older collections. Genealogies of native rulers appeared in the Puranas. However, the writing of history was not highly developed in India; the principal products were the artha, or handbooks on politics and practical life. In the 7th cent. the work of Hsüan-tsang gave much valuable information about India. Arab works on India, notably that of Al-Biruni of Khiva, began to appear in the 10th cent.; notable later Muslim historians were Firishta and Khafi Khan.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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