The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji

Nihongo|"The Tale of Genji"|源氏物語|Genji Monogatari is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel, or the first novel to still be considered a classic, though this issue is a matter of debate (see "Stature" below.)

The first partial translation of "Genji Monogatari" into English was by Suematsu Kenchō. A free translation of all but one chapter was produced by Arthur Waley.cite book |last= Shikibu |first= Murasaki |coauthors = Waley, Arthur | title= The Tale of Genji |publisher= Modern Library |year= 1960 |id= Vintage] Edward Seidensticker made the first complete translation into English, using a more literal method than Waley.cite book |last= Shikibu |first= Murasaki |coauthors = Seidensticker, Edward | title= The Tale of Genji |publisher= Knopf |year= 1976 |id= ] The most recent English translation, by Royall Tyler (2001), also tries to be faithful to the original text.cite book |last= Shikibu |first= Murasaki |coauthors = Tyler, Royall | title= The Tale of Genji |publisher= Viking |year= 2002 |id= ] Diet member Marutei Tsurunen has also made a translation in Finnish.


The "Genji" was written chapter by chapter in installments, as Murasaki delivered the tale to women of the aristocracy (the "yokibito"). It has many elements found in a modern novel: a central character and a very large number of major and minor characters, well-developed characterization of all the major players, a sequence of events happening over a period of time covering the central character's lifetime and beyond. The work does not make use of a plot; instead, much as in real life, events just happen and characters evolve simply by growing older. One remarkable feature of the "Genji", and of Murasaki's skill, is its internal consistency, despite a "dramatis personae" of some four hundred characters. For instance, all characters age in step and all the family and feudal relationships are consistent among all chapters.

One complication for readers and translators of the "Genji" is that almost none of the characters in the original text is given an explicit name. The characters are instead referred to by their function or role (e.g. Minister of the Left), an honorific (e.g. His Excellency), or their relation to other characters (e.g. Heir Apparent), which may all change as the novel progresses. This lack of names stems from Heian-era court manners that would have made it unacceptably familiar and blunt to freely mention a character's name. Modern readers and translators have, to a greater or lesser extent, used various nicknames to keep track of the many characters. See Characters for a listing.


The "Tale of Genji" is an important fictional work of Japanese literature, and numerous modern authors have cited it as inspiration. It is noted for its internal consistency, psychological depiction, and characterization. The novelist Yasunari Kawabata said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "The Tale of Genji" in particular is the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature. Even down to our day there has not been a piece of fiction to compare with it."

The "Genji" is also often referred to as "the first novel", though there is considerable debate over this — some of the debate involving whether "Genji" can even be considered a "novel". Some consider the psychological insight, complexity, and unity of the work to qualify it for "novel" status while simultaneously disqualifying earlier works of prose fiction. [Ivan Morris, "The World of the Shining Prince" (1964), p.277] Others see these arguments as subjective and unconvincing. Related claims, perhaps in an attempt to sidestep these debates, are that "Genji" is the "first psychological novel", "the first novel still considered to be a classic", or other more qualified terms. Claiming that it is the world's first novel inevitably denies the claims of "Daphnis and Chloe" and "Aethiopica" in Greek, which Longus and Heliodorus of Emesa respectively wrote, both around the third century, and in Latin, Petronius's "Satyricon" in the first century and Apuleius's "Golden Ass" in the second, as well as "Kādambari" in Sanskrit which author Bānabhatta wrote in the seventh century. (The debate exists in Japanese as well, with comparison between the terms "monogatari" -- "tale" -- and "shōsetsu" -- "novel".)

The novel and other works by Lady Murasaki are standard staple in the curricula of Japanese schools. The Bank of Japan issued the 2000 Yen banknote in her honour, featuring a scene from the novel based on the 12th century illustrated handscroll.


The debate over how much of the "Genji" was actually written by Murasaki Shikibu has gone on for centuries and is unlikely to ever be settled unless some major archival discovery is made. It is generally accepted that the tale was finished in its present form by 1021, when the author of the "Sarashina Nikki" wrote a famous diary entry about her joy at acquiring a complete copy of the tale. She writes that there are over fifty chapters and mentions a character introduced near the end of the work, so if other authors besides Murasaki Shikibu did work on the tale, the work was done very near to the time of her writing.

Yosano Akiko, the first author to make a modern translation of the "Genji", believed that Murasaki Shikibu had only written Chapters One to Thirty-three, and that Chapters Thirty-five to Fifty-four were written by her daughter Daini no Sanmi. Other scholars have doubted the authorship of Chapters Forty-two to Forty-four (particularly Forty-four, which contains rare examples of continuity mistakes).

According to Royall Tyler's introduction to his English translation of the work, recent computer analysis has turned up "statistically significant" discrepancies of style between chapters 45–54 and the rest, and also among the early chapters. But this discrepancy can also be explained by a change in attitude of the author as she grew older, and the earlier chapters are often thought to have been edited into their present form some time after they were initially written.

One of the frequent arguments made against the multiple authorship idea is that the "Genji" is a work of such genius that someone of equal or greater genius taking over after Murasaki is implausible.


The work recounts the life of a son of a Japanese emperor, known to readers as "Hikaru Genji", or "Shining Genji". Neither appellation is his actual name: nihongo|"Genji"|源氏 is simply another way to read the Chinese characters for the real-life nihongo|Minamoto clan|源の氏|Minamoto-no-Uji, to which Genji was made to belong. For political reasons, Genji is relegated to commoner status (by being given the surname Minamoto) and begins a career as an imperial officer.The tale concentrates on Genji's romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. Much is made of Genji's good looks.

Genji was the second son of a certain ancient emperor and a low-ranking concubine (known to the readers as Lady Kiritsubo). His mother dies when Genji is three years old, and the Emperor cannot forget her. The Emperor then hears of a woman ("Lady Fujitsubo"), formerly a princess of the preceding emperor, who resembles his deceased concubine, and later she becomes one of his wives. Genji loves her first as a stepmother, but later as a woman. They fall in love with each other, but it is forbidden. Genji is frustrated because of his forbidden love to the Lady Fujitsubo and is on bad terms with his wife ("Aoi no Ue").He also engages in a series of unfulfilling love affairs with other women. In most cases, his advances are rebuffed, his lover dies suddenly during the affair, or he finds his lover to be dull in each instance. In one case, he sees a beautiful young woman through an open window, enters her room without permission, and forces her to have sex with him. Recognizing him as a man of unchallengeable power, she makes no resistance, saying only that "Someone might hear us." He retorts, "I can go anywhere and do anything." [""Who are you?" She was frightened... Her surprise pleased him enormously. Trembling, she called for help." [ A Boy And His Toys: Gender Relationships in "The Tale of Genji"] ]

Genji visits Kitayama, the northern rural hilly area of Kyoto, where he finds a beautiful ten-year-old girl. He is fascinated by this little girl ("Murasaki"), and discovers that she is a niece of the Lady Fujitsubo. Finally he kidnaps her, brings her to his own palace and educates her to be his ideal lady; like the Lady Fujitsubo. During this time Genji also meets the Lady Fujitsubo secretly, and she bears his son. Everyone except the two lovers believes the father of the child is the Emperor. Later the boy becomes the Crown Prince and Lady Fujitsubo becomes the Empress, but Genji and Lady Fujitsubo swear to keep their secret.

Genji and his wife Lady Aoi reconcile and she gives birth to a son, but she dies soon after. Genji is sorrowful, but finds consolation in Murasaki, whom he marries. Genji's father, the Emperor, dies; and his political enemies, the Minister of the Right and the new Emperor's mother ("Kokiden") take power in the court. Then another of Genji's secret love affairs is exposed: Genji and a concubine of his brother, the Emperor Suzaku, are discovered when they meet in secret. The Emperor confides his personal amusement at Genji's exploits with the woman ("Oborozukiyo"), but is duty-bound to punish his half-brother. Genji is thus exiled to the town of Suma in rural Harima province (now part of Kobe in Hyōgo Prefecture). There, a prosperous man from Akashi in Settsu province (known as the Akashi Novice) entertains Genji, and Genji has a love affair with Akashi's daughter. She gives birth to a daughter. Genji's sole daughter later becomes the Empress.

In the Capital, the Emperor is troubled by dreams of his late father, and something begins to affect his eyes. Meanwhile, his mother grows ill, which weakens her powerful sway over the throne. Thus the Emperor orders Genji pardoned, and he returns to Kyoto. His son by Lady Fujitsubo becomes the emperor and Genji finishes his imperial career. The new Emperor Reizei knows Genji is his real father, and raises Genji's rank to the highest possible.

However, when Genji turns 40 years old, his life begins to decline. His political status does not change, but his love and emotional life are slowly damaged. He marries another wife, the "Third Princess" (known as "Onna san no miya" in the Seidensticker version, or "Nyōsan" in Waley's). She bears the son of Genji's nephew later, ("Kaoru"). Genji's new marriage changes the relationship between him and Murasaki, who now wishes to become a nun.

Genji's beloved Murasaki dies. In the following chapter, "Maboroshi" ("Illusion"), Genji contemplates how fleeting life is. Immediately after Maboroshi, there is a chapter entitled "Kumogakure" ("Vanished into the Clouds") which is left blank, but implies the death of Genji.

The rest of the work is known as the "Uji Chapters". These chapters follow Niou and Kaoru, who are best friends. Niou is an imperial prince, the son of Genji's daughter, the current Empress now that Reizei has abdicated the throne, while Kaoru is known to the world as Genji's son but is in fact fathered by Genji's nephew. The chapters involve Kaoru and Niou's rivalry over several daughters of an imperial prince who lives in Uji, a place some distance away from the capital. The tale ends abruptly, with Kaoru wondering if the lady he loves is being hidden away by Niou. Kaoru has sometimes been called the first anti-hero in literature. [Seidensticker (1976: xi)]


As mentioned in the previous section, the tale ends abruptly, in mid-sentence. Opinions have varied on whether the ending was the intended ending of the author.

Arthur Waley, who made the first English translation of the whole of "The Tale of Genji", believed that the work as we have it was finished. Ivan Morris, author of "The World of the Shining Prince", believed that it was not complete, but that only a few pages or a chapter at most were "missing". Edward Seidensticker, who made the second translation of the "Genji", believed that it was not finished, and that Murasaki Shikibu did not have a planned story structure with an "ending" and would simply have gone on writing as long as she could.

Literary context

Because it was written to entertain the Japanese court of the eleventh century, the work presents many difficulties to modern readers. First and foremost, Murasaki's language, Heian Period court Japanese, was highly inflected and had very complex grammar. Another problem is that naming people was considered rude in Heian court society, so none of the characters are named within the work; instead, the narrator refers to men often by their rank or their station in life, and to women often by the color of their clothing, or by the words used at a meeting, or by the rank of a prominent male relative. This results in different appellations for the same character depending on the chapter.

Another aspect of the language is the importance of using poetry in conversations. Modifying or rephrasing a classic poem according to the current situation was expected behavior in Heian court life, and often served to communicate thinly veiled allusions. The poems in the "Genji" are often in the classic Japanese tanka form. Many of the poems were well known to the intended audience, so usually only the first few lines are given and the reader is supposed to complete the thought herself, much like today we could say "when in Rome..." and leave the rest of the saying (" as the Romans do") unspoken.

As for most Heian literature, the "Genji" was probably written mostly (or perhaps entirely) in kana (Japanese phonetic script) and not in Chinese characters because it was written by a woman for a female audience. Writing in Chinese characters was at the time a masculine pursuit; women were generally discreet when writing in Chinese, confining themselves mostly to pure Japanese words.

Outside of vocabulary related to politics and Buddhism, the "Genji" contains remarkably few Chinese loan words. This has the effect of giving the story a very even, smooth flow. However, it also introduces confusion: there are a number of words in the "pure" Japanese vocabulary which have many different meanings, and, for modern readers, context is not always sufficient to determine which meaning was intended.

Murasaki was neither the first nor the last writer of the Heian period, nor was the "Genji" the earliest example of a "monogatari". Rather, the "Genji" stands above other tales of the time in the same way that Shakespeare's plays outshine other Elizabethan drama.

Modern readership


The complexities of the style mentioned in the previous section make it unreadable by the average Japanese person without dedicated study of the language of the tale. Therefore translations into modern Japanese and other languages solve these problems by modernizing the language, unfortunately losing some of the meaning, and by giving names to the characters, usually the traditional names used by academics. This gives rise to anachronisms; for instance Genji's first wife is named Aoi because she is known as the lady of the Aoi chapter, in which she dies.

Both scholars and writers have tried translating it. The first translation into modern Japanese was made by the poet Yosano Akiko. Other known translations were done by the novelists Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and Fumiko Enchi.

Because of the cultural difference, reading an annotated version of the "Genji" is quite common, even among Japanese. There are several annotated versions by novelists, including Seiko Tanabe, Osamu Hashimoto and Jakucho Setouchi. [Walker, James. [ Big in Japan: "Jakucho Setouchi: Nun re-writes "The Tale of Genji","] "Metropolis." No. 324; Spaeth, Anthony. [,8599,188602,00.html "Old-Fashioned lover,"] "Time." December 17, 2001.] Many works, including a manga series and different television dramas, are derived from "The Tale of Genji". There have been at least five manga adaptations of the "Genji". [cite web|author=Richard Gunde|publisher=UCLA Asia Institute|date=2004-04-27|title=Genji in Graphic Detail: Manga Versions of the Tale of Genji|url= |accessdate=2006-11-16] A manga version by Waki Yamato, "Asakiyumemishi" ("The Tale of Genji" in English), is widely read among Japanese youth, and another version, by Miyako Maki, won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1989.cite web | url= | title=小学館漫画賞:歴代受賞者 | publisher=Shogakukan | language=Japanese | accessdate=2007-08-19]

Most Japanese high-school students will read a little bit of the "Genji" (the original, not a translation) in their Japanese classes.

English translations

In 2008, WorldCat identifies 88 editions of this book. The five major translations into English are each slightly different -- mirroring the personal choices of the translator and the period in which the translation was made. Each version has its merits, its detractors and its advocates; and each is distinguished by the name of the translator. For example, the less widely circulated version translated by Marutei Tsurunen would typically be referred to as "the Tsurunen "Genji"."

The generally recognized "best" translations were created by Suematsu Kenchō, Arthur Waley, Edward Seidensticker, Helen McCullough, and Royall Tyler.

Major English translations in chronological order:

* "The Suematsu "Genji" -- Suematsu's "Genji" was the first translation into English, but is considered of poor quality and is not often read today. Significantly, only a few chapters were completed.
** Suematsu, Kenchō. (1882). "The Tale of Genji." London: Trubner.

* "The Waley "Genji" -- Waley's "Genji" is considered a great achievement for his time; [,9171,745773,00.html "Genji Finished,"] "Time." July 3, 1933.] but purists have pointed out many errors [Takatsuka, Masanori. (1970). [ "Brief remarks on some mistranslations in Arthur Waley's Tale of Genji,"] p. ] ] and some have criticized the overly-free manner in which changes were made to Murasaki's original text. However, when the Waley "Genji" was first published, it could not have been more eagerly received. For example, "Time" explained that "the reviewers' floundering tributes indicate something of its variegated appeal. In limpid prose The Tale combines curiously modern social satire with great charm of narrative. Translator Waley has done service to literature in salvaging to the Occident this masterpiece of the Orient." [,9171,928916,00.html "In All Dignity,"] "Time." August 27, 1928.]
** Murasaki, Shikibu. (1926-1933). [ "The Tale of Genji"] (tr. Arthur Waley). London: George Allen & Unwin. OCLC 24043629
** ________________. (1926). [ "The tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 38680848
** ________________. (1952). [ "The tale of Genji 1. Pt. 1 - 3"] (tr. Arthur Waley). London: Allyn & Unwin. OCLC 174505067 (11 editions)
*** "The Tale of Genji" [see above] ] (1st part). [ [,9171,720632-2,00.html [Chicago} "Jap Lothario,"] "Time." August 3, 1925.]
*** "The Sacred Tree" [see above] ] (2nd part). [ [,9171,751493,00.html?promoid=googlep "Jap Lothario II,"] "Time." May 24, 1926.]
*** "The Wreath of Cloud" [see above] ] (3rd part).
** ________________. (1928). [ "Blue trousers, being the fourth part of "The tale of Genji"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 493840 (2 editions). [see above] ]
** ________________. (1928). [ "The lady of the boat, being the fifth part of the "Tale of Genji"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 493840 (4 editions)
** ________________. (1933). [ "The bridge of dreams, being the second volume of "The lady of the boat" and the final part of "The tale of Genji"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 1835201 (2 editions)
** ________________. (1934). [ "The Tale of Genji. A Novel in Six Parts by Lady Murasaki"] (tr. Arthur Waley). London: George Allen & Unwin. OCLC 6070783 (2 editions)
** ________________. (1935). [ "The Tale of Genji. A Novel in Six Parts by Lady Murasaki"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Literary Guild. OCLC 10413414
** ________________. (1960). [ "The Tale of Genji: A Novel in Six Parts"] (tr. Arthur Waley). New York: Modern Library. OCLC 325524

* The Seidensticker "Genji" -- Seidensticker's "Genji" is an attempt to correct what were perceived to have been Waley's failings without necessarily making his translation obsolete. Seidensticker hews more closely to the original text, but in the interests of readability, he takes some liberties. For example, he identifies the cast of characters by name so that the narrative can be more easily followed by a broad-based audience of Western readers.
** Murasaki Shikibu. (1976). [ "The Tale of Genji"] (tr. Edward Seidensticker). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 10-ISBN 0-394-48328-6; 13-ISBN 978-0-394-48328-3 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-394-73530-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-394-73530-6 (paper)

* The McCullough "Genji":
** McCullough, Helen Craig. (1994). [ "Genji & Heike: Selections from The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike."] Stanford: Stanford University Press. 10-ISBN 0-804-72257-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-804-72257-5 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-804-72258-7; 13-ISBN 978-0804-72258-2 (paper)

* The Tyler "Genji" -- Tyler's "Genji" contains more extensive explanatory footnotes and commentary than the previous translations, describing the numerous poetical allusions and cultural aspects of the tale. Tyler consciously attempted to mimic the original style in ways that the previous translations did not. For example, this version doesn't use names for most characters, identifying them instead by their titles in a manner which was conventional in the context of the 11th century original text. Tyler's version "makes a special virtue of attending to a certain ceremonial indirectness in the way the characters address one another. The great temptation for a translator is to say the unsaid things, and Tyler never gives in to it." [Wood, Michael. [,9171,501020318-216348,00.html "A Distant Mirror,"] "Time". March 11, 2002.]
** Murasaki Shikibu. (2001) "The Tale of Genji." (tr. Royall Tyler). New York: Viking Press. 10-ISBN 0-670-03020-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-670-03020-0 (cloth)
** ________________. (2002). [ "The Tale of Genji"] (tr. Royall Tyler). New York: Penguin Classics. 10-ISBN 0-142-43714-X; 13-ISBN 978-0-142-43714-8 (paper)]


The novel is traditionally divided in three parts, the first two dealing with the life of Genji, and the last dealing with the early years of two of Genji's prominent descendants, Niou and Kaoru. There are also several short transitional chapters which are usually grouped separately and whose authorship is sometimes questioned.

# Genji's rise and fall
## Youth, chapters 1–33: Love, romance, and exile
## Success and setbacks, chapters 34–41: A taste of power and the death of his beloved wife
# The transition (chapters 42–44): Very short episodes following Genji's death
# Uji, chapters 45–54: Genji's official and secret descendants, Niou and Kaoru

The last and therefore 54th chapter "The Floating Bridge of Dreams" is argued sometimes a separate part from the Uji part by the modern scholars. It seems to continue the story from the previous chapters, but has an unusually abstract chapter title. It is the only chapter whose title has no clear reference within the text, but this may be because the chapter is unfinished. (This question is more difficult because we do not know exactly when the chapters acquired their titles.)

List of chapters

The English translations here are taken from the Royall Tyler translation. It is not known for certain when the chapters acquired their titles. Early mentions of the Tale refer to chapter numbers, or contain alternate titles for some of the chapters. This may suggest that the titles were added later. The titles are largely derived from poetry that is quoted within the text, or allusions to various characters.

1 桐壺 "Kiritsubo" ("Paulownia Pavilion")

2 帚木 "Hahakigi" ("Broom Tree")

3 空蝉 "Utsusemi" ("Cicada Shell")

4 夕顔 "Yūgao" ("Twilight Beauty")

5 若紫 "Wakamurasaki" or "Waka Murasaki" ("Young Murasaki")

6 末摘花 "Suetsumuhana" ("Safflower")

7 紅葉賀 "Momiji no Ga" ("Beneath the Autumn Leaves")

8 花宴 "Hana no En" ("Under the Cherry Blossoms")

9 葵 "Aoi" ("Heart-to-Heart")

10 榊 "Sakaki" ("Green Branch")

11 花散里 "Hana Chiru Sato" ("Falling Flowers")

12 須磨 "Suma" ("Suma"; a place name)

13 明石 "Akashi" ("Akashi"; another place name)

14 澪標 "Miotsukushi" ("Pilgrimage to Sumiyoshi")

15 蓬生 "Yomogiu" ("Waste of Weeds")

16 関屋 "Sekiya" ("At The Pass")

17 絵合 "E Awase" ("Picture Contest")

18 松風 "Matsukaze" ("Wind in the Pines")

19 薄雲 "Usugumo" ("Wisps of Cloud")

20 朝顔 "Asagao" ("Bluebell")

21 乙女 "Otome" ("Maidens")

22 玉鬘 "Tamakazura" ("Tendril Wreath")

23 初音 "Hatsune" ("Warbler's First Song")

24 胡蝶 "Kochō" ("Butterflies")

25 螢 "Hotaru" ("Fireflies")

26 常夏 "Tokonatsu" ("Pink")

27 篝火 "Kagaribi" ("Cressets")

28 野分 "Nowaki" ("Typhoon")

29 行幸 "Miyuki" ("Imperial Progress")

30 藤袴 "Fujibakama" ("Thoroughwort Flowers")

31 真木柱 "Makibashira" ("Handsome Pillar")

32 梅が枝 "Umegae" ("Plum Tree Branch")

33 藤のうら葉 "Fuji no Uraha" ("New Wisteria Leaves")

34 若菜上 "Wakana: Jo" ("Spring Shoots I")

35 若菜下 "Wakana: Ge" ("Spring Shoots II")

36 柏木 "Kashiwagi" ("Oak Tree")

37 横笛 "Yokobue" ("Flute")

38 鈴虫 "Suzumushi" ("Bell Cricket")

39 夕霧 "Yūgiri" ("Evening Mist")

40 御法 "Minori" ("Law")

41 幻 "Maboroshi" ("Seer")

X 雲隠 "Kumogakure" ("Vanished into the Clouds")

42 匂宮 "Niō no Miya" ("Perfumed Prince")

43 紅梅 "Kōbai" ("Red Plum Blossoms")

44 竹河 "Takekawa" ("Bamboo River")

45 橋姫 "Hashihime" ("Maiden of the Bridge")

46 椎が本 "Shīgamoto" ("Beneath the Oak")

47 総角 "Agemaki" ("Trefoil Knots")

48 早蕨 "Sawarabi" ("Bracken Shoots")

49 宿り木 "Yadorigi" ("Ivy")

50 東屋 "Azumaya" ("Eastern Cottage")

51 浮舟 "Ukifune" ("A Drifting Boat")

52 蜻蛉 "Kagerō" ("Mayfly")

53 手習 "Te'narai" ("Writing Practice")

54 夢の浮橋 "Yume no Ukihashi" ("Floating Bridge of Dreams")

The additional chapter between 41 and 42 in some manuscripts is called 雲隠 ("Kumogakure") which means "Vanished into the Clouds" — the chapter is a title only, and is probably intended to evoke Genji's death. Some scholars have posited the existence of a chapter between 1 and 2 which is now lost, which would have introduced some characters that (as it stands now) appear very abruptly.

Later authors have composed additional chapters, most often either between 41 and 42, or after the end.


The original manuscript written by Murasaki Shikibu is no longer extant. Numerous copies, totaling around 300 according to Ikeda Kikan, exist with differences between each. It is thought that Shikibu often went back and edited early manuscripts introducing discrepancies with earlier copies. [Yamagishi (1958: 14)]

The various manuscripts are classified into three categories [Yamagishi (1958: 14-16)] [Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten (1986: 621-622)] :
*Nihongo|"Beppon"|別本|In the 13th century, two major attempts by Minamoto no Chikayuki and Fujiwara Teika were made to edit and revise the differing manuscripts. The Chikayuki manuscript is known as the "Kawachibon"; edits were many beginning in 1236 and completing in 1255. The Teika manuscript is known as the "Aobyōshibon"; its edits are more conservative and thought to better represent the original. These two manuscripts were used as the basis for many future copies.

The "Beppon" category represents all other manuscripts not belonging to either "Kawachibon" or "Aobyōshibon". This includes older but incomplete manuscripts, mixed manuscripts derived from both "Kawachibon" and "Aobyōshibon", and commentaries.

On March 10th, 2008 it was announced that a late Kamakura period manuscript was found in Kyōto. [cite web
url =
title = 鎌倉後期の源氏物語写本見つかる
publisher = Sankei News
date = 2008-03-10
accessdate = 2008-03-11
] [cite web
url =
title = 源氏物語の「別本」、京都・島原の「角屋」で発見
publisher = Yomiuri
date = 2008-03-10
accessdate = 2008-03-11
] It is the sixth chapter "Suetsumuhana" and is 65 pages in length. Most remaining manuscripts are based on copies of the Teika manuscript which introduced revisions in the original. This newly discovered manuscript belongs to a different lineage and was not influenced by Teika. Professor Yamamoto Tokurō who examined the manuscript said, "This is a precious discovery as Kamakura manuscripts are so rare." Professor Katō Yōsuke said, "This is an important discovery as it asserts that non-Teika manuscripts were being read during the Kamakura period."

Illustrated scroll

A twelfth century scroll, the "Genji Monogatari Emaki", contains illustrated scenes from the Genji together with handwritten "sōgana" text. This scroll is the earliest extant example of a Japanese "picture scroll": collected illustrations and calligraphy of a single work. The original scroll is believed to have comprised 10-20 rolls and covered all 54 chapters. The extant pieces include only 19 illustrations and 65 pages of text, plus nine pages of fragments. This is estimated at roughly 15% of the envisioned original. The Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya has three of the scrolls handed down in the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan and one scroll held by the Hachisuka family is now in the Gotoh Museum in Tokyo. The scrolls are designated National Treasures of Japan. The scrolls are so sensitive to light and air, that they are never shown in public and sealed away. An oversize English photoreproduction and translation was printed in limited edition by Kodansha International ("Tale of Genji Scroll", ISBN 0-87011-131-0).

Other notable versions are by Tosa Mitsuoki, who lived from 1617 to 1691. His paintings are closely based on Heian style from the existing scrolls from the 12th century and are fully complete. The tale was also a popular theme in Ukiyo-e prints from the Edo period.

Film adaptations

"The Tale of Genji" has been translated into cinematic form several times. In 1951 by director Kōzaburō Yoshimura, in 1966 by director Kon Ichikawa, and in 1987 by director Gisaburo Sugii. The latter is an animated film. The last is not a complete version, and basically covers the first 12 chapters, while adding in some psychological motivation that is not made explicit in the novel. In 2001 Tonko Horikawa made an adaptation with an all-female cast. In the movie, "Sennen no Koi - Hikaru Genji Monogatari" ("Genji, A 1000-Year Love"), Murasaki tells the Genji story to a girl as a lesson on men's behavior. The 1955 Kenji Mizoguchi film "Yokihi" (or "Princess Yang Kwei-fei") can be seen as a sort of prequel to "Genji".

Operatic adaptations

"The Tale of Genji" has also been adapted into an opera by Miki Minoru, composed during 1999 and first performed the following year at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, with original libretto by Colin Graham (in English), later translated into Japanese by the composer.


Part I

"Many characters also appear in Part II, but rarely in Part III."

*Hikaru Genji – The protagonist of Parts 1 and 2. He is the child of the emperor and a low ranked concubine named Kiritsubo who died young. He is an ideal courtier, both in politics and in elegance. Genji uses his good looks to get himself out of a lot of sticky situations.

*Emperor Kiritsubo – The father of Genji, Emperor Suzaku and Hachinomiya (lit. "The Eighth Prince"). Legally, he is also the father of Emperor Reizei, whose actual father is Genji. After the death of Kiritsubo, he finds a noble lady whose features resemble his deceased wife and he makes her his empress. See also Empress Fujitsubo.

*Empress Fujitsubo – Empress Fujitsubo is empress to Emperor Kiritsubo, and stepmother to Genji. She was a royal princess from birth, as the fourth daughter of the "previous emperor" who occupied the thrown prior to Emperor Kiritsubo. When he was a child, Genji admired her, and felt affection towards her. When he grows up, Genji falls in love with her.She bears him a son who would later take the throne as Emperor Reizei. Fujitsubo dies soon after Genji returns from his exile in Harima province. Genji's two wives, Lady Murasaki and Onna San-no-miya are her nieces.

*Lady Aoi – She is Genji's first principal wife. Their marriage was not a happy one, although the two reconcile at one point. She falls ill during her pregnancy and dies soon after she gives birth to Yūgiri, her only child.

*Tō no Chūjō / Naidaijin / Chishi-no-Otodo – Genji's friend and brother-in-law. He is the elder brother of Lady Aoi (see the above) and a good rival both in private life, and later in public. He is referred to only by his position and has no particular nickname, unlike the other characters. Tō No Chūjō likes to spy on Genji to find out what Genji is up to. Later in his life, he gains the rank of Naidaijin, and competes with Genji to make one of their daughters empress.

*Lady Rokujō – A lady who is jealous over the many philandorous acts Genji partakes in. She is widowed by Genji's uncle, a deceased crown prince and younger brother of Emperor Kiritsubo. She is frustrated by the other women around Genji, especially infuritated by Lady Aoi. Her frustration culminated when Lady Aoi's servants harass her publicly and it causes her to possess Lady Aoi unconsciously. It drives Lady Aoi to death and Lady Rokujō realizes it. She comes to repent her unconscious acts, and ends her relationship with Genji. She leaves Kyoto, accompanying her daughter who was appointed the high priestess of Ise Shrine. She later haunts another one of Genji's wives, Lady Murasaki, as a ghost.

*Lady Murasaki – Genji's second, but actually de-facto wife. She was a niece of Empress Fujitsubo and her resemblance to the empress attracted Genji. When Genji visited a retired abbot's house, he noticed her as an appealing child of 10, being raised by her grandmother, a nun and sister of the former abbot. Genji was enthralled with the idea of raising her himself, shaping her to become his ideal woman. He finally kidnapped her after the death of the grandmother. Once she was old enough, he married her. She is treated as if she were the primary wife of Genji by himself and others, though her rank did not quite qualify her for that status. Later, she realized her vulnerable position when Genji formally married Princess Onna or Nyosan. She sank into depression as she faced the fact that Genji would never be monogamous. She yearned to become a nun, but Genji would not give her permission to leave him. At the age of 37, she died after a long illness, one year earlier than Genji.

*Lady Akashi – Born as a middle ranked noble, a love affair with Genji was not her own plan, but her father was insistent in getting them involved in a relationship. She gives a birth to a girl,the only daughter of Genji. She brings up her daughter (called Little Lady Akashi, later Empress Akashi) until the age of four, when Genji decides that Lady Murasaki should adopt the little girl. Lady Akashi is saddened, but gradually accepts the situation. Later, she meets her daughter again, now a court lady of the crown prince, and receives many honors as the birth mother of little Lady Akashi. She then receives a letter from her father about his fortune-telling dream. He writes the dream gave him a prediction that his granddaughter by Lady Akashi would become the empress, and he turned all his efforts to realize that prediction.

*Tamakazura – a daughter of Tō No Chūjō and a lady called Yugao, who was later a concubine of Genji. Tamakazura is adopted by Genji.She wants to meet her real father, who doesn't know she is still alive. Genji forms a salon for her admirers. He takes pleasure in watching young men compete for Tamakazura's favor. Her brother, sons of Tō No Chūjō, are involved, not knowing that she is his sister. Genji himself flirts her, just to see her reaction. Later, Tō No Chūjō and she meet again in the courtesy of Genji. Genji has an idea who to marry her to, but she is raped by a middle-aged courtier and becomes his wife instead.

Part II

*Kashiwagi – is the eldest son of Naidaijin (Tō No Chūjō in his youth) and best friend to Yūgiri. He has an affair with Genji's youngest wife, Onna san no miya (lit. the Third Princess), which results in the birth of Kaoru.

*Onna san no miya or Princess Nyosan (in Waley's translation) - is the beloved daughter of Emperor Suzaku and wife of Genji in his later years. She is a niece of late Empress Fujitsubo in her maternal lineage. As Genji's wife she is young and of unformed character and helplessly allowed Kashiwagi to force himself upon her. Their affair results in the birth of Kaoru.

Part III

*Kaoru - is the protagonist of Part III. Legally he is known as the son of Genji and Onna san no miya but his real father is the late Kashiwagi. Learning eventually this secret makes him not committing and lean to Buddhism. He falls in love to O no kimi in Uji, the first daughter of Hachinomiya, but she passed away. Kaoru fell in love later to Ukifune whose feature is quite similar to the late O no kimi, but he again loses his lover.

*Nio no miya (Prince the Perfumed) - Nio no miya is the third prince of the current Emperor by Empress Akashi, therefore a grandson of Genji. Nio no miya is the best friend to Kaoru. He is known a man of love affairs. He falls in love to Naka no kimi in Uji, the second daughter of Hachinomiya and the younger sister of O no kimi. Despite of oppositions, he made Naka no kimi a wife. He rapes Ukifune, her half-sister who eventually stayed at her, and this incident drives her to suicide.

*Ukifune - is an illegitimate daughter of Hachinomiya, the eighth prince of Emperor Kiritsubo. Her presence is almost not known by her father. She eventually meets her half-sister Naka no kimi, the second daughter of Hachinomiya, and now a wife of Nio no miya. When she stays at her sister, Nio no miya rapes her. Suffering sense of betrayal Ukifune decided to death and dives into Uji river. Her life is saved by a Buddhist monk priest who eventually passes there through. Ukifune decides to be a nun and refuses Kaoru who sends her brother as a messenger and tries to persuade her to come back to him.

ee also

* Japanese literature
* "Jūnihitoe"
* "sudare"
* The Pillow Book
* Hagiwara Hiromichi's Appraisal of "Genji" ("Genji monogatari hyõshaku")

External links

* [ "The Tale of Genji" 1976 Seidensticker translation] 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.)
* [ "Japanese Literature - Including Selections from Genji Monogatari and Classical Poetry and Drama of Japan"] Contains the 1882 Suematsu translation of the first 17 chapters of "The Tale of Genji", with an introduction and notes.
* [ The Texts of "Genji Monogatari"] Original text, romanized version, and modern Japanese translation of "The Tale of Genji" at the University of Virginia Library.
* [ "Tale of the Genji" woodcuts] Woodcut illustrations and accompanying excerpts at the UNESCO Global Heritage Pavilion.
* [ "Murasaki Shikibu: Genji monogatari" (1987)] An animated film based on "The Tale of Genji".
* [ The Picture Scroll of "The Tale of Genji"] Some scans of the "Genji Monogatari Emaki" ("Tale of Genji Scroll"). Only about half of the images are from the twelfth century scroll; they are the darker colored, more faded images.
* [ "The Tale of Genji"] A photographic guide to "The Tale of Genji".
* [ "The Tale of Genji": Genealogical chart] A family tree detailing the various relationships of the characters in "The Tale of Genji".
* [ "The Tale of Genji Audiobooks"] Japanese reading of 7 of 54 chapters from the original text, mp3 files.
* [ Japan Finance Minister Announces Kyoto Coin Design with "The Tale of Genji" Theme] The Kyoto Prefecture commemorative coin set for release in October 2008 features a scene from "The Tale of Genji."


* [ The Tale of Genji Summary] Character section was used.


* cite book
last = Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten Henshū Iinkai
title = Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten
publisher = Iwanami Shoten
date = 1986
language = Japanese
id = ISBN 4-00-080067-1

*cite book
last = Seidensticker
first = Edward G.
authorlink = Edward Seidensticker
title = The Tale of Genji
volume = 1
year = 1976
publisher = Turtle Publishing
isbn = 978-4-8053-0919-3

*cite book
last = Seidensticker
first = Edward G.
authorlink = Edward Seidensticker
title = The Tale of Genji
volume = 2
year = 1976
publisher = Turtle Publishing
isbn = 978-4-8053-0920-9

* cite book
last = Yamagishi
first = Tokuhei
title = Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei 14: Genji Monogatari 1
publisher = Iwanami Shoten
date = 1958
location = Tōkyō
language = Japanese
id = ISBN 4-000-60014-1

* cite book
last = Yamagishi
first = Tokuhei
title = Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei 14: Genji Monogatari 1
publisher = Iwanami Shoten
date = 1958
location = Tōkyō
language = English
id = ISBN 4-000-60014-1

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