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The revised version of Records of the Grand Historian won the ‘Song Yunbin Awards for Ancient Books Collation’

On June 16th, the award ceremonyof the first “Song Yunbin Awards for Ancient Books Collation” was held in the National Library of China. The revised version of Records of the Grand Historian, Collection of Bamboo Slips and Silks in Mawangdui Han Tomb of Changsha and Correction and Annotation of the Complete Works of Du Fu won the Book Award of the first “Song Yunbin Awards”. The collation of those books was presided over by Professor Shengqun Zhao from Nanjing Normal University School of Chinese Language and Literature. The results announcement file saysthat these books are of the highest level of ancient books collation in the 21st century, which is agreed unanimously.

Professor Shengqun Zhao from NNU School of Chinese Language and Literature led the collation work of the punctuation collated version of Records of the Grand Historian (the revision group led by professor Shengqun Zhao consists of Xiangdong Fang, Huabao Wang, Xinjiang Wu, E Wang, Hongjun Cao, Yongji Wang an Peng Su). The revised version of this book whose collation work lasted for nearly eight years was honored “General Version of Records of the Grand Historian in the 21st Century”. On October 19th, 2013 the launch ceremonies of this book were held simultaneously in 31 book stores of 25 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, New York and so on, which was the first time in the history of both Zhonghua Book Company and publishing of ancient books. In August 2014 the paperback edition was published and up to now, the two editions were issued for 85,000 copies in total, which is also rarely seen in the publishing history of collated ancient books.

The revised version of Records of the Grand Historian

The Records of the Grand Historian is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official SimaQian after having been started by his father, Sima Tan, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court. The work covers a 2500-year old history from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author's own time.

The Records has been called a "foundational text in Chinese civilization" and set the model for the 24 subsequent dynastic histories of China. Unlike Western historical works, the Records do not treat history as "a continuous, sweeping narrative", but rather break it up into smaller, overlapping units dealing with famous leaders, individuals, and major topics of significance.

Professor Shengqun Zhao is from NNU School of Chinese Language and Literature who engages in Chinese classical documents studies and currently serves as the dean of the Department of Literature and Information. He has published many books on ancient literature and over 80 papers on distinguished academic journals. Attaching great importance to the popularization of Chinese classical works, he has offered courses such as “Guided Reading to The Records of the Grand Historian” and “Guided Reading to The Spring and Autumn Annals” to his students.

“Collation of ancient books is the pioneering work of promoting and developing the traditional culture and the foundation of modernization of traditional culture. Collating those deep and original ancient books is extremely difficult but is also worth a lot. However, the current academic evaluation system takes little account of ancient books collation, which contradicts to the actual difficulty of this work, leading to the inaccurate evaluation of the work. There is also a severe shortage of skilled collating talents. Today, we are glad to see the ancient books collation is recognized and supported by our society and the ‘Song Yunbin Award’ greatly inspired us. I am hopeful for the future of ancient books collation” said Professor Shengqun Zhao in his acceptance speech.

Song Yunbin Award

He also said that although the revision work has been done, studies of the Records of the Grand Historianare far from the end. The ultimate goal of Professor Zhao is to finish a “fully collated, annotated, researched” version of the Records which may outshine the Textual Research of annotation of the Records of the Grand Historian revised by a Japanese sinologist named Kametarō Takigawa.

The “Song Yunbin Awards for Ancient Books Collation” was set up in May 31st, 2016 in Beijing, China. It is the first private donatednon-profit foundationthat awards the collation and publishing of ancient books. Yunbin Song (1897—1979) was the famous literary historian and editor of Zhonghua Book Company who had devoted himself in the collation work of ancient books, making great contribution to it.

There will be 4 winners of “Song Yunbin Awards for Ancient Books Collation” (3 Book Award, 1 Editor Award) and 2 winners of “Song Yunbin Youth Awards for Ancient Books Collation” (1 Book Award, 1Editor Award). The Book Award focuses on collator’s original collation work while the Editor Award focuses on the actual collating and editing work one has done on ancient books over the years.

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