The plaque hung on the wall of the common room in the History Department displays the famous quote by Sima Qian, the author of the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史記):
- Studying the relationship between the heaven and man, looking through the changes taken place from ancient to present times, one can form his personal opinion. (Han Shu, “Biography of Sima Qian”)
The quotation from Sima Qian is highly eulogized and regarded as the paradigm by historians. Historians dedicate themselves on researches, hoping to provide clarification and explanation of changes in human history. They formulate own opinion and present them with clarity and accuracy to the general public. Liu Zhiji 劉知幾, one of the most critical Tang historian, claims shicai 史才, shixue 史學, shishi 史識 the three indispensable instincts of historians. Historians should be well trained in historical knowledge, competent in writing and, above all, able to demonstrate the principle of “straight writing 直書 zhishu” - upholding historians’ moral responsibility in recording the truth. In writing, they ought to ground their arguments on facts and evidences to their utmost effort. Therefore, I would like to share Sima Qian’s and Liu Zhiji’s advice and experiences with every history student, wishing you to build a solid foundation for the sustained development of historical knowledge, and to keep a clean heart and mind as well even in the face of adversity.