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No art or learning is to be pursued halfheartedly...and any art worth learning will certainly reward more or less generously the effort made to study it. -Murasaki Shikibu,

Murasaki Shikibu The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji, thought by many to be the first novel in the history of world literature, was written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, in the eleventh century. 

Asia for Educators, Columbia University

794-1185 CE

Lady Murasaki lived during the Heian Period (794-1185), an era remarkable for the poetry, diaries, and fiction produced by court ladies. Their sensitivity to nature and the art of love set the tone for the art and literature of their time. While the men wrote in an awkward, scholarly form of Chinese, the women developed a Japanese script more suitable to the Japanese language. In succeeding periods of warfare, popular tales of the bravery of the samurai warriors would all but obliterate court ladies’ writings. Even in such tales, however, the warrior would stop in the midst of battle to recite a poem, play his flute, and sigh over the falling of a blossom. The tastes of the women of Japan were never again to dominate the arts, but the sensibilities of the Heian period continued to exert an influence over Japanese literature in later years.

The Tale of Genji covers the life span of the brilliant Prince Genji and his many romances. Genji is Murasaki Shikibu’s ideal of manhood. He is gentle, poetic, stunningly handsome, and, above all, a tender lover.

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