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Murasaki Shikibu

From Academic Kids

Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部 Murasaki Shikibu, c. 973–c. 1014 or c 1025) was a novelist, poet, and servant of the imperial court during the Heian period of Japan. She is well known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1008, one of the earliest and most famous novels in human history.

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KyotoRozanji.jpg
Rozanji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, with ties to Lady Murasaki

Lady Murasaki's mother died while she was a child, so Murasaki was raised, contrary to customs of the time, by her father Tametoki, a scholar and officer of the imperial court. During Heian-era Japan, couples lived separately and children were raised by the mother and her family. Also contrary to customs of the time, her father gave her a male's education. Males were educated in and taught Chinese, the official language of the court, while females were taught kana and poetry. Her father praised her intelligence and ability, but lamented she was "born a woman".

At the royal court, she was the lady in waiting for Empress Shoshi/Akiko, and may have been hired by Fujiwara Michinaga to serve the Empress.

Three works are attributed to Murasaki, the most important being The Tale of Genji. The Murasaki Shikibu Diary and The Murasaki Shikibu Collection were arranged and published posthumously. The Murasaki Shikibu Collection was a compilation of 128 poems written by Murasaki.

Her real name is unknown. Some scholars believe her given name might have been Takako. Her diary states that she was nicknamed "Murasaki" at court, after a character in The Tale of Genji. "Shikibu" refers to her father's position in the Bureau of Ceremony (shikibu-shō). She either died in 1014, when records show that her father suddenly returned to Kyoto from his governor's mansion, or between 1025 and 1031, when she would have been in her mid fifties, which was quite old by Heian standards.

A fictionalized biography of Murasaki called The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel was written by Liza Dalby, who is the only Westerner to have been trained as a geisha.

References

  • Dalby, Liza. The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel (Anchor, 2001). ISBN 0385497954.
  • Lady Murasaki, Arthur Waley (trans.). The Tale of Genji, published in 6 volumes from 1921-33.
  • Shikibu, Murasaki; Tyler, Royall (trans.). The Tale of Genji (Viking, 2001.) ISBN 0670030201.

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