Hikaru Genji

Hikaru Genji

Hikaru Genji (光源氏, "The brilliant Genji") is the protagonist of "The Tale of Genji". In the story, he is described as the most handsome man in the world and he attracts all women. Genji is the second son of Emperor Kiritsubo (桐壺帝), but he is delegated to civilian life for political reasons and begins a career as an imperial officer. The tale concentrates on his romantic life and gives an impressive portrait of the customs of the time.

Genji was given the appellation "Hikaru no Kimi" (光の君, the Shining Prince) in his youth. He is also referred to in the book as Rokujō no In (六条院) sometimes abbreviated as "In" (院). His given name is never referred to in the course of the story.

He is a fictitious person but it is thought the author was inspired by some historical figures including Minamoto no Tōru who was a grandson of Emperor Saga hence one of the Saga Genji clan.

Hikaru Genji appears from the first volume "Kiritsubo" to the 40th volume "Illusion".

Life of Hikaru Genji in "Tale of Genji"

Hikaru Genji was born the second son of emperor Kiritsubo by his lower ranked consort, Kiritsubo no Koi (桐壺更衣). Genji was blessed with peerless beauty and genius, even from infancy, and was nicknamed "the Shining Prince". His mother Kiritsubo died when he was only three years old. Pursuing the ideal of his mother, he became involved with many women in his lifetime.

His father Emperor Kiritsubo considered appointing the Shining Prince the crown Prince. He was however worried that his second son had no support from his maternal line. And it had been predicted by a Korean that if Hikaru would ascend to the throne, the country would be thrown into chaos. This prediction discouraged him too. Finally the Emperor lowered Hikaru's rank to civilian, giving him the clan name Minamoto, (Genji).

Genji adored his stepmother Lady Fujitsubo (藤壺), the favorite consort of Emperor Kiritsubo. Since her close resemblance to the dead Lady Kiritsubo was the reason that Emperor Kiritsubo had her enter his court, this was not surprising. As a result of their forbidden love, she bore a boy (later Emperor Reizei, 冷泉帝) to Genji, but no one knew the truth of his birth, and the child was raised as a prince and son of Emperor Kiritsubo.

He had two wives in the legal sense during his life: Lady Aoi (Aoi no Ue、葵の上) and Onna san no Miya (女三の宮, known in the Arthur Waley translation as Nyōsan, 女さん or "The Third Princess"), the third daughter of Emperor Suzaku (朱雀帝) respectively. Lady Aoi was his wife in his youth and died after she bore a son to Genji. Onna san no Miya was, on the other hand, his wife in his old age. She was a daughter of Emperor Suzaku by a lady whose sister was Empress Fujitsubo, hence her niece. But his de facto wife and most beloved one was Lady Murasaki (Murasaki no Ue, 紫の上), another niece of Fujitsubo. Genji met her by chance when she was very young - at the age of twelve. When her grandmother who brought her up died, and before her real father could take her to his mansion, Genji kidnapped Murasaki and brought her up himself. After Aoi died, Genji made her his unofficial wife. But their marriage didn't follow the whole protocol of official marriage, though she received as many honours as the factual wife of Genji, she remained officially his concubine, and that was one of the reasons Genji was offered the opportunity to marry the Third Princess. Genji couldn't reject this offer because of his affection for Fujitsubo, but this young girl was totally different from Fujitsubo and he was very disappointed and had many regrets.

Genji had many love affairs. He even made love to one of his brother's de facto consorts, Oborozukiyo (朧月夜). She was nominally the Head of Ladies-in-waiting and no official consort, but it was a scandal. Genji moved to Suma, in Harima province (播磨国), before he could be expelled officially by his enemies.

In Harima province, Genji met Lady Akashi and had a daughter by her. Later his brother Emperor Suzaku was afflicted by illness and feared it was a result of his poor treatment of his brother, Genji. Genji was invited to return to Miyako (nowaday Kyoto). He left Lady Akashi and the child and returned to Kyoto.

After Genji was back in Kyoto, Emperor Suzaku abdicated in favor of the crown prince (Reizei) who was really the son of Genji. This prince ascended to the throne, but he learned the secret of his birth by chance, and wanted to abdicate in favor of his real father, Genji. It was however impossible and as the second best, Emperor Reizei gave Genji the same rank as an abdicated emperor. After rising to this noblest rank, Genji was called Rokujo-in, a name taken from his mansion.

Genji wanted his daughter to be the next Empress. He invited Lady Akashi and the child (known as Princess Akashi, 明石の姫) to Kyoto. Later, Lady Murasaki adopted this girl and brought her up. This girl became a consort of the crown prince and later his empress.

At the age of forty, he married his niece, Onna san no Miya. This marriage did not make him happy. Kashiwagi (柏木), a son of his friend Naidaijin (内大臣), hence a nephew of Lady Aoi, lusted after Onna san no Miya and sought her love even after her marriage with Genji. Finally he intruded into Rokujoin and raped her. She bore a boy whose father was Kashiwagi. Genji was angry but finally realizes it was just what he had done to his father, and it was a reward of his past treachery to his father and emperor. He decided to keep the secret of the birth of this boy and to bring him up as his real and third child.

After Lady Murasaki died, he became a monk and secreted himself in Saga (嵯峨). One year later he died too.

External links

* [http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Genji/00000010.htm Online text of complete 1976 Seidensticker translation] without the notes and with numerous typos. (The illustrations included in the Knopf edition of this translation are reproduced at the UNESCO heritage site below.)
* [http://webworld.unesco.org/genji/en/index.shtml "Tale of the Genji" woodcut illustrations and accompanying excerpts at the UNESCO Global Heritage Pavilion]
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0295455/ Murasaki Shikibu: Genji monogatari (1987)]
* [http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/asian377/studentspring99/asian377e/genji/ Some scans of the "Genji Monogatari Emaki" ("Tale of Genji Scroll")] . Only about half of the images are from the 12th century scroll; they are the darker colored, more faded images.

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