Ideal Man and Woman in The Tale of Genji

Powerful Essays
The literary masterpiece The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is a fictional tale that provides clear insight into the sociopolitical court life of the Heian period in Japan. In the tale we are able to see the standards of life that were expected of the aristocrats during the Heian period. The social nature of Heian court life is depicted in the many relationships of the characters through the various stories presented in The Tale of Genji. The relationships in the tale are mainly romantic relationships that surround the Shining Prince Genji, along with other relationships such as parent and child, master and servant, and relationships between social contemporaries. The romantic relationships in the tale indirectly provide the reader with an understanding of the ideal man or woman in the Heian court. We can derive from various parts of the tale what social standards were like during the Heian period, and what constituted the ideal court lady or man.

The Heian period was a peaceful era that is highly regarded in Japan’s history. At this time Japan was beginning to break away from Chinese influence, thus the culture of Japan was morphing into something unique and independent from that of China. An example of resulting change was Japan’s further development of their writing system known as kana, which allowed authors to express their feelings in a more Japanese way. The Japanese court also progressed independently from China and created unique concepts and values such as miyabi “courtliness,” makoto “sincerity,” and aware “sadness of impermanence” (Hooker). The expectations put on men and women in the court during the Heian period must have been concurrent with such values.

The courtiers were expected to show miyabi in their pers...

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...too clear. Genji is supposedly the absolute perfect man of the Heian period. I do not like him, but I cannot impose my modern perspective upon that of the Heian period.

Works Cited

Arima, Hiro. "Japanese Court Culture." East Asian Civilization. Southern Illinois

University Carbondale, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .

Chiappa, J N. "The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari)." J. Noel Chiappa. Ed. J N.

Chiappa. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .

Hooker, Richard. "Ancient Japan: Heian Period." World Civilizations. Ed. Richard

Hooker. Washington State University, 6 June 1999. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .

Tyler, Royall, ed. The Tale of Genji: Abridged. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. 18, 24,

36, 61-63, 179, 180, 316. Print.
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