Written by Sima Qian of the Western Han Dynasty, the Records of the Historian was the first general history in the form of a series of biographies to appear in China. It records the history of China from the most remote past. The era of the legendary founder of the Chinese nation Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) in prehistoric China to the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. The book has 130 chapters, recording the progress of history by means of biographies of historical figures. It marked the start of biographical literature in China and had farreaching influence on the development of the historical and literary works of later generations. Records of the Historian was ranked by Lu Xun, China's literary giant of the 20th century, as the country's leading work of history. The 31 chapters selected for inclusion in this book are regarded as the most outstanding of those in the original work. Most of them are taken from the Lie Zhuan (Biographies of Important Figures) section. An Pingqiu proofread the classical prose, corrected mistakes and translated the text into refined vernacular Chinese. The English translation is by the husband-and-wife team Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang.