Japanese culture and literature: A female tale that lasts the centuries
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki) is the most famous Japanese lady in history because she wrote The Tale of Genji. However, many areas remain foggy about her life based on the passages of time. It is often stated that she was born in 973 but her death remains hotly disputed because some claim 1014 – while others claim 1025. Therefore, it is clear that major areas of her life remain open to individual interpretation.
Not surprisingly, artists and people of literature have utilized the rich legacy of Murasaki Shikibu irrespective if factual, part-truth, or aspects of false attributions. During the Edo period, artists belonging to the rich world of ukiyo-e depicted Murasaki Shikibu based on adoration, culture, history, reverence, natural connections with lay people, from a profit angle, and other factors. After all, the esteem of Murasaki Shikibu remains potent from century to century in Japan.
In The Tale of Genji, many adorable quotes remain based on the beauty of the writing. Murasaki Shikibu says, “No art or learning is to be pursued halfheartedly…and any art worth learning will certainly reward more or less generously the effort made to study it.”
Another adorable quote – too many to highlight in The Tale of Genji – is “Even those people who have no sorrow of their own often feel melancholy from the circumstances in which they are placed.”
It is widely believed that Murasaki Shikibu is “Fujiwara Takako” but it is best to stay on firm ground by using her historical name. Other areas of debate apply to how she learned Chinese and the classics from this nation. Some claim that her knowledge was obtained by listening from a distance while her brother was taught. Yet, others claim that her father allowed her to study openly with her brother. Either way, Murasaki Shikibu was blessed with high intelligence and a creative mind that would utilize the knowledge she learned and further expand this individually.
In a past article I comment, “Murasaki Shikibu was no normal lady because she desired to express many things and given her stature in society, then clearly she had the opportunity to do so. This lady of letters was a poet and novelist. Therefore, being in the Imperial court she had certain obligations because she was a lady-in-waiting.”
The Tale of Genji is the most famous novel in Japanese history and internationally this book is viewed with high esteem in the world of literature. Murasaki Shikibu oozes passion because her words flow just like Shakespeare and Macbeth. Of course, the theme is extremely different and the same applies to the rich narrative. However, rare moments in time have created pure classics of literature such as The Tale of Genji and Macbeth.
The death and final years of Murasaki Shikibu remain shrouded in mystery because she did cease to write according to the writings she left behind. Yet, it could be that she desired rich contemplation and solace during the final years of her life. Irrespective of this, the passion of The Tale of Genji will remain forever within the annals of Japanese history.
http://www.taleofgenji.org/ The Tale of Genji
http://webworld.unesco.org/genji/en/index.shtml The Tale of Genji
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