The Poetry Behind the Tale of Genji, A Heian Prince of Japan | Ancient Origins Members Site


The Poetry Behind the Tale of Genji, A Heian Prince of Japan

Print
    
Folding Screen with Design of the Scenes from The Tales of Genji by anonymous painter. Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (Public Domain)

The Poetry Behind the Tale of Genji, A Heian Prince of Japan

Written in the early 11th century Japan, Genji Monogatari (源氏物語, The Tale of Genji) vividly describes the complex life and relationships of Genji, a handsome courtier, an excellent lover and a worthy friend. At its most basic, the Tale of Genji serves as an introduction to the culture of the aristocracy in early Heian Japan (794 – 1185 AD) ranging from its forms of entertainment, dress and daily life to a strict moral code.

Late-16th- or early-17th-century hanging scroll in ink and gold leaf illustrating a scene from Genji. (Public Domain)

Late-16th- or early-17th-century hanging scroll in ink and gold leaf illustrating a scene from Genji. (Public Domain)

Despite being written in a notoriously complex style, incorporating many nuances and over 800 inserted poems, the novel secured its popularity as a timeless classic and since its publication it has been immensely influential in Japanese literature and thought. It has been read, studied, alluded to, quoted and imitated in countless Japanese literary works and theatre ever since. The oldest onnae (scroll paintings) from Japan, believed to have been painted in the 1120s or 1130s AD, contain 19 illustrations from Genji Monagatari.   


Become a member to read more OR login here

Ancient Origins Quotations