145 -c. 85 BC
Ssu-ma Ch'ien, or Sima Qian, was an astronomer, calendar expert, and historian.
After extensive travels he entered the court service of the emperor Han Wu-ti. He was appointed grand historian. Ssu-ma Chien wrote the first comprehensive history of China, the 'Shih chi' meaning 'Historical Record'.
Ssu-ma Chien initiated a remarkable tradition of historical writing. He
organized China's history around the idea that each dynasty began with a
virtuous ruler chosen by Heaven, and then by degrees lost its initial virtue until
Heaven lost patience and withdrew its mandate from the last unworthy