The greatest of the Han’s records, the Shiji (史記), traditionally known as the “Grand Scribe’s Records” (太史公書), is a massive work accredited to the Han court scribe, Sima Qian (司馬遷, ca 145 – 86 B.C.E.). It not only documents the history of the Han, but also of the surrounding world; thus, we could consider it one of the earliest attempts at creating a world history. Succeeding Chinese dynasties would come to model their own histories after it, eventually inspiring neighboring states to do the same. The text itself was separated into five segments:
The Basic Annals (本紀): the descriptions and histories of the dynasties and their emperors.
Tables (表): the genealogical and chronological tables of dynastic reigns, families, and noteworthy events.
Treatises (書): notes on the histories and developments of Chinese culture and sciences.
The Hereditary Houses (世家): histories of the royal houses and historical states of China.
The Biographies (列傳): descriptions and histories of notable individuals and groups.
The last of these segments, the Biographies, is where we find the bulk of the information pertaining to the Xuŋa (Xiongnu) and their nomadic neighbors.