The Ideal of a Man, the Ideal of a Woman of the Heian Court Based on the Tale of Genji

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Seen from descriptions in the most prominent literature works in Heian era, such as Ise Monotagari, Kagerō Nikki, Izumi Shikibu Nikki, Makura-no-Shōshi, and Genji Monogatari, gender roles during the period were implicitly or explicitly defined, and I assume, because of this climate, they were considered as major parts of the society, and vice versa. There are many characters appearing in Genji Monogatari. I think each of them is a representation of people whom Murasaki Shikibu had observed around her in her time, and that reviews of those characters are the key to a glimpse into ideal manliness and ideal femininity and manliness in the Heian era. In this paper, I will discuss the ideal images of men and women in Heian era by analyzing distinctive characters in those historical pieces, mainly from Genji Monogatari in comparison with the others. Some concrete image of ideal women is described in the second chapter of Genji Monogatari, where Tō no Chūjō and a couple of his friends discuss over criterion for choosing good lovers and wives and share their experiences of love affairs. This discussion reveals some features of ideal women of the Heian era, in terms of social ranks, personality, looks, and gender roles as a wife and mother: someone who is in a rather high social status with education (middle-class preferred to highborn), not snobby but genuine, beautiful and young, good at taking care of children, and respectful to her husband. In fact, these characteristics of the ideal woman are already introduced in Chapter 1, by descriptions of Kiritsubo-no-Kōi and Fujitsubo. Before the reader reaches the end of the chapter, s/he will learn that Kiritsubo-no-Kōi is loyal to her husband and patient despite of other women’s harass... ... middle of paper ... ...t the story, Genji is a genuine individual. Apparently the people in the era were romanticists and they might believe in the body-mind connection that one’s heart shows on his/her appearance. In conclusion, Genji Monogatari contains various aspects of the culture and society in Heian era to provide with information of the time, including social values, religious beliefs, customs, events, clothing, housing, etc. This paper focused on the femininity and manliness which the Heian aristocrats saw and discovered that some human traits have remained as virtue and others have turned into vice throughout the past 1,000 years; women were expected to be patient, generous, reserved, reliable, not jealous, loyal, educated, and physically attractive; men were desired if they were sensitive, aesthetically creative, musical, caring, romantic, and physically attractive.
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