This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 5.  Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.

Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu ( 紫式部 ) in the Heian period around the 11th century.  She was an aristocrat court lady.  Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki, a scholar.   There were several novels and essays written by a female around this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the greatest Japanese literature known worldly.  The Tales of Genji is the treasure for Japanese.  Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued 2000 yen bill *ᴵ  with a scene (the author at the corner) from the novel on the back.  We consider this bill very beautiful, instead of using it, people just keep it, so it does not circulate much.  I have four bills and I am keeping them.  The novel is about Hikaru Genji ‘s (光源氏) love history (yes, history) from the time he was about 16 years old until he dies, plus 10 chapters after his death called Uji jyu- jyo .  The title of the chapter, the chapter he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”,  which I think it is very poetic.  The Tales of Genji depict the daily life of the aristocrat society, their customs, lifestyle and how people think in those days.  The description of the process of the courting is as I described in the previous chapter “5|Heian Period History 794- 1192”.   The author created Hikaru Genji, the main character, as a high-level aristocrat, an illegitimate son of the Emperor.  He is supposed to be a most charming, good-looking, smart and high-level aristocrat, and all the women fall for him.  He goes around all kinds of women one after another,  beautiful woman, smart but not so good-looking, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  But it is a wonderful novel.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu created the novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became very popular then, it is said that even the Emperor at the time was asking her how the next story develops.  Genji Monogatari is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon.

Once you have the general idea how the Heian aristocrat life was like, it makes you realize why the Heian sword is shaped the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify the Heian sword from amongst other swords that are made other times and other provinces.   All sword reflects the society of its own.

 

* 1    The back of 2000 yen bill

5 Heian period 2000 yen

 

Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni.  These paintings are based on the Tales of Genji

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpg
By Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国) 17C
Part of the Burke Albums, a property of Mary Griggs Burke   (Public Domain)

 

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