Murasaki Shikibu

Franklin Library Murasaki Shikibu books

The Tale of Genji: The Uji Chapter - World's Best Loved Books - 1983

Murasaki Shikibu biography

Murasaki Shikibu, often referred to simply as Lady Murasaki, was a Japanese writer and noblewoman who lived during the Heian period, which lasted from the late 8th century to the early 12th century. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, often considered the world's first novel and one of the greatest literary achievements in Japanese literature. Murasaki Shikibu was born around 973 in Heian-kyō, present-day Kyoto, Japan, into a noble family associated with the Fujiwara clan, one of the most influential families of the time. Her exact birth name is unknown, but she is commonly referred to by the name Murasaki, which means "purple" in Japanese, possibly in reference to her father's position in the Bureau of Ceremonies, which was associated with the color purple. As a member of the imperial court, Murasaki Shikibu received an education that was uncommon for women of her time, studying literature, poetry, Chinese classics, and court etiquette. She became a lady-in-waiting to Empress Shōshi, the wife of Emperor Ichijō, and her experiences at court provided inspiration for her writing.

Murasaki Shikibu began writing The Tale of Genji around the year 1000, completing it several years later. The novel, consisting of 54 chapters, follows the life and romantic exploits of Hikaru Genji, a fictional prince and courtier, and explores themes of love, desire, and the passage of time. The Tale of Genji is celebrated for its intricate plot, rich characterization, and poetic prose, and it has had a profound influence on Japanese literature and culture. In addition to The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu is also credited with writing poetry, diaries, and other works, although much of her oeuvre has been lost to history. Her writings provide valuable insights into the society, culture, and courtly life of the Heian period.

Murasaki Shikibu's legacy as a pioneering female writer endures to this day, and she is revered as one of Japan's greatest literary figures. Her contributions to literature have earned her a place of honor in the canon of world literature, and her name continues to be synonymous with literary excellence and artistic achievement.

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