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A sweeping work of incredible scope, Sima Qian's book covers more than two and a half thousand years of ancient Chinese history, beginning with the reign of the Yellow Emperor in 2696 BCE and concluding in the author's own time in 87 BCE. Praised for his more objective approach to historiography, in which "winners" and "losers" were appraised with equal care, Sima Qian's aim was to rise above mere biography and look for patterns and trends in the development of human culture.