Genji monogatari has been called to be the world’s finest and first novel, completed in the early Heian period in 1008. Many people doubted if Murasaki Shikibu was the true authorship, but evidences from Murasaki Shikibu nikki and Sarashina nikki have proven that she is the author of this masterpiece. I personally think that it is important to talk about some of the important events happened in Murasaki’s life before examining the ideal woman and man of the Heian court.
“Shikibu was born into the Fujiwara family, daughter of the governor of a province, who also was a well known scholar. Always very intelligent, as a child she learned more quickly than her brother, causing her father to lament, "If only you were a boy, how happy I should be!"”(Female Hero, 1996-2011). The importance of this will be discussed later in the essay. Murasaki was brought into the imperial court due to her brilliant mind and great talents in writing. Attending at the court, “she went to great pains to hide her knowledge of Chinese, fearing the criticism of those who felt it to be unladylike to be happy reading this obscure language (Female Hero, 1996-2011).” One can be sure that the majority of the characters are fictitious in the novel, however, I believe the court life, way of thinking, human relationship and most important, views of an ideal man and woman among members in the imperial court are truly according to Murasaki’s observance.
The indigenous Japanese culture, arts and literature have flourished in the Heian period of Japan. One can tell that exchanging short poems and messages between each other was the most prominent device of communication for both men and women at the time. Composing and exchanging love poems and messages were mostly used to express one’s interest and adoration toward the other party. Because of the importance of communication, girls and women started to develop more and more of their kana writing system, as well as their literacy ability.
Chapter Two in Genji monogatari has fully depicted men’s view on an ideal woman in the Heian period of Japan. The chapter begins with Genji secluded in the palace because there had been heavy rain for days. Then, Tō no Chūjō, the Chief Left Equerry and the Fujiwara Aide of Ceremonial gathered in Genji’s place and somehow they started to talk about what defines an ideal women. All men have agreed on pursuing girls that are being born in high-ranked nobility families, optimally, have equivalent or slightly lower status than themselves . Chief Left Equerry suggested that there may be fascinating and pretty unknown girls living in seclusive places because the fallen of their families. Those girls may have all the new things to surprise and please men. However, “compared to someone truly flawless, she of course falls short, but for what she is, she is hard to let go (Tyler, 23).” From my own interpretation, the suggestion said by Chief Left Equerry is that it is better for men to get involved in a...