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Murasaki Shikibu and the Tale of Genji About 1000 years ago, the author known as Muarasaki Shikibu created the complex narrative Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari), which is now considered to be the world's first novel. Murasaki began writing stories about Prince Genji as a way to amuse her close circle of friends, but very soon the texts were recopied and circulated throughout Japan, winning her much admiration and a place in the entourage of Empress Shoshi. In 54 chapters Murasaki described the lives of three generations of courtiers and their families. Those fascinating stories about palace intrigues and romantic adventures have, in turn, inspired later authors and artists to emulate and illustrate various versions of the Tale of Genji. Murasaki's narrative has been one of the major sources of inspiration for the visual and performing arts of Japan for a millennium. Very little is known about the woman who wrote the Tale of Genji, even her personal name is uncertain, although she has long been called "Murasaki" after a major character in her story. Her father Fujiwara Tametoki was a poet and scholar of Chinese literature and held various political appointments during the Heian Period, including one in the Ministry of Ceremonies (Shikibu sho). Murasaki Shikibu demonstrates in her diary, poems and Genji that she had an extraordinary command of both Chinese and Japanese literature, and she is listed among Japan's 36 immortal poets (rokkasen).

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Title Artist Medium & Support Creation Date
Genji of the East   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Tale of Genji: Murasaki and Genji Enjoying the Snow   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1854 
Watching Lady Aoi Call Upon Lady Rokujo   Utamaro, Kitagawa   Ink on Paper  1801-1803 
Tale of Genji: Ch. 04, Yugao   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1850 
Genji of the East: Garden in Snow (middle part of a triptych)   Hiroshige, Ando   Ink on Paper  1854 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 12, Suma   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 39, Yugiri   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  1857 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 24, Kocho   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1890 
Genji-maru   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  1867 
Yamashiro, Moon after Rain over an Old Temple, Mitsu-uji and Tasogare   Chikanobu, Yoshu   Ink on Paper  c. 1885 
The Yugao Chapter from "The Tale of Genji"   Yoshitoshi, Tsukioka   Ink on Paper  1886 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 23, Hatsune   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Tale of Genji: Ch. 05, Wakamurasaki   Gekko, Ogata   Ink on Paper  1892 
Osaka Genji Series: Ch. 37, Yokobue   Yoshitaki, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Tale of Genji: Ch. 05, Wakamurasaki   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  1852 
Osaka Genji Series: Ch. 49, Yadorigi   Yoshitaki, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Tale of Genji: Ch. 12, Suma   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  1852 
Tale of Genji: Ch. 13, Akashi   Kunisada, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  1852 
Four: The Twilight Beauty (Yon: Yugao)   Gekko, Ogata   Ink on Paper  1892 
Modern Times, 54 Chapters: Ch. 06, Suetsumuhana   Kunichika, Toyohara   Ink on Paper  1884 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 20, Asagao   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Playing Cards: Ch. 21, Otome   Kunisada II, Utagawa   Ink on Paper  c. 1860 
Modern Times, 54 Chapters: Ch. 22, Tamakazura (Jeweled Chaplet)   Kunichika, Toyohara   Ink on Paper  1884 
Modern Times, 54 Chapters: Ch. 12, Suma   Kunichika, Toyohara   Ink on Paper  1884 
Modern Times, 54 Chapters: Ch. 13, Akashi   Kunichika, Toyohara   Ink on Paper  1884 

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