Murasaki Shikibu: Her Life

Murasaki Shikibu is said to be the author of The Tale of Genji. Although the same can be said for all women of Murasaki's time, her real name and the date of birth and death cannot be confirmed even for her, the leading author of her day. The name of Murasaki Shikibu was that used for a court lady with "Murasaki" being used as a given name while "Shikibu" refers to her father's position at the court. Beside writing The Tale of Genji, Murasaki also showed her genius in her other famous book called The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu.
Murasaki Shikibu was born in a middle-level family of nobility during the middle of the Heian Period. Her father, Fujiwara Tametoki, was known as a scholar and man of literacy although he accomplished little of note as an official in the government. Perhaps in compensation for this, he took pains to see that his daughter was well learned. Murasaki Shikibu was remarkable when yet a child learning to read books that even educated boys found difficult.
Murasaki's childhood was not a happy one as her mother passing away soon after she was born followed by her elder sister on whom she depended. Murasaki married rather late into a family of similar social class. Within a few years, her husband died leaving Murasaki with a daughter and much grief and pain. It was against this background that Murasaki began writing The Tale of Genji in which she looks closely at the relationships of men and women and the unfortunate circumstances in which women find themselves placed in.
Prime Minister Fujiwara no Michinaga appears to have found Murasaki a position working for the Empress Akiko based on the Murasaki's fame that resulted from the popularity of The Tale of Genji. Various theories exist as to when the writing of The Tale of Genji was finished but it seems likely that she continued writing it while serving the Empress. Although it is not certain as to the date of Murasaki's death, she likely passed away shortly after she finished the famous novel, perhaps when she was forty or so.

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