Abstract | The Cyclic Views of the Human Condition in Thucydides’ “Archaeology” and Sima Qian’s “Preface to Historical Records”

BAI Chun Xiao

It seems to me that both Greek and Chinese historical thinking originally investigated the past and reconstructed cultural memories with rationality, and I hope to get a better understanding of the basic characteristics of Greek and Chinese historiographies. To that purpose, this paper attempts to discuss the cyclic views of the human condition underlying ancient Greek and early Chinese historiographies through a comparative study of Thucydides’ and Sima Qian’s texts. I show some similarities and differences between two great historians’ conceptions of the historical process. Further, it suggests that Sima Qian precisely marks a separation from the mythical stories to the historical spirit in China, just as Thucydides did in Greece. Both of them have some kind of modified cyclic view of human history. Sima Qian focuses on the dynastic cycle with a strong moral concern, while Thucydides believes that human intelligence develops through the historical spiral.




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