Murasaki Shikibu. The daughter of Fujiwara Tametoki.
Date of creation
About the year 1000 during the Heian Period.
The Tale of Genji centers on the life and loves of a handsome son, Hikaru
Genji, born to an Emperor during the Heian Period.
In the story, the beloved concubine of the Emperor gives birth to Genji and dies soon after. Raised within the Royal Family, Genji has his first illicit affair with Fujitsubo, the young wife of the Emperor. She gives birth to a boy who was raised by the unknowing Emperor as his own son. Although feeling guilt because of this affair Genji goes on to have numerous other affairs with other court ladies including Utsusemi, Yugao, Murasaki-no-ue, and Hanachirusato. At one point, Genji's adultery with a lady of the opposite faction results in his being exiled for a
period to Suma After a short time, he returns to the capital, where he rises further in status and position being appointed to high official ranking reaching the apogee of his career. However, his newly wed young bride, Onna-Sannomiya, has an illicit affair that results in a child, Kaoru,
reminding Genji of his own similar past actions. Then Murasaki-no-ue, Genji's real love and wife, in fact, if not in law, of more than twenty years, passes away. Left in deep despondence Genji decides to leave the capital to enter a small mountain temple.
The Tale of Genji continues, although without the hero Genji. In his place are Kaoru, his grandson, and Niou-no-miya, Kaoru's friend. These two youths carry on the Genji tradition with the princesses in the palace at
Uji. The story centers on the young lady, Ukibune, whose heart and mind is set a flutter by the courtship of these two young men.
Structure of Story
Composed of 54 chapters, The Tale of Genji is broadly divided into three
sections. The first part of thirty-three
chapters concerns itself with the first half of Genji's life starting with
Chapter Kiritsubo and ending with Chapter
Fuji-no-uraba (Arthur Waley's translation of The Tale of Genji, Part 1 Chapter
1 to Part 4 Chapter 5). The
second portion begins with the marriage of Onna-Sannomiya to a commoner in Chapter Wakana Part I (Ibid., Part 4 Chapter 6) and ends with Chapter Mirage (Ibid., Part 4 Chapter 12). There is a chapter following this that is entitled "Hidden Behind the Clouds" which has no text. This chapter is not found in The Tale of Genji.
The third section starts with Chapter Niou (Ibid., Part 5 Chapter 1) in which Kaoru plays the major role. It ends with Chapter The Bridge of Dreams (Ibid., Part 6 Chapter 13). From Chapter The Bridge Maiden (Ibid., Part 5 Chapter 4) to the end shifts the stage to Uji city and is thus often called the Uji Appendix.