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					Elvis Navarro
IDW 213
Prof. Esteves
11/25/08

                Essay on Murasaki and other women diaries

                Murasaki Shikibu or Lady Murasaki as she is sometimes known in

English, was a Japanese novelist, poet, and a maid of honor of the imperial court during

the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in

Japanese between about 1000 and 1008, one of the earliest novels in human history.

Other great works written by Japanese women were The Pillow Book and The Sarashina

Diary. These women faced many hardships because only men were allowed to write

mostly in that time period. Women of that time period produced detailed records of

events they were involved in such as poetry, and domestic life and their unhappy love

affairs. Also they described life at the court and how it was run.

       Murasaki's mother died while she was a child, so Murasaki was raised, contrary to

customs of the time, by her father Fujiwara no Tametoki, a scholar and officer of the

imperial court. During Heian-era Japan, couples lived separately and children were raised

by the mother and her family. Also contrary to customs of the time, her father gave her a

male education. Men were taught kanji and classical Chinese literature as the requisite

culture, while women were taught kana and poetry. Her father praised her intelligence

and ability but lamented that she was "born a woman”. Her father knew she was smarter

than her brother who had trouble learning the Chinese classics while to her it was a

breeze. " She was married in her early 20s and had one child, Daini no Sanmi, who was a

poet in her own right.
        Murasaki is considered one of the greatest writers of Japanese literature. Statues

in her honor have been erected throughout Japan, her works are a staple part of the

education curriculum in Japan. Another great literary work is The Pillow Book. The

Pillow Book is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her

time as court lady to Empress Sadako during the 990s and early 1000s in Heian Japan.

The book was completed in the year 1002. In it she included lists of all kinds, personal

thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on her contemporaries.

Here Shonagon talks about her love life and how you can tell what type of guy you are

with just by the way he reacts and puts his clothes on. She uses humor as well and makes

use of comedy to convey her message. Shonagon work is founded out in the imperial

court and she is asked by the royals to express her poems but she is so embarrassed she

rathers not. The literary work was so good that the royals wanted to make it part of their

personal collection. Another great literary work was The Sarashina Diary. The

Sarashina Diary is a memoir written by Lady Sarashina as she is commonly known, a

lady-in-waiting of Heian-period Japan. Her work stands out for its descriptions of her

travels and pilgrimages and is unique in the literature of the period, as well as one of the

first in the genre of travel writing. Lady Sarashina was a niece on her mother's side of

Michitsuna's Mother, author of another famous diary of the period, the Kagero Niki. Her

memoirs start with her childhood days, where she shamefully remembers her joy at

reading tales to the point of praying to the Buddha to be able to read all of them, and

relegating spiritual life as a lesser priority. She spent her youth living at her father's

house. In her thirties, when she was rather old by Heian standards, she married and

became a lady-in-waiting. She was too shy and old to make a career in court and too
indifferent to her husband and children, who are barely mentioned in her diary. She

travelled with her father who was and assistant governor. She recorded all the events she

encountered while in those travels. She was so detailed and descriptive that she would

make a description of the landscape and how the weather was and the time of day. “It

just happens that the women of Kyoto, in the days when it was the residence of the

Japanese emperor and known as ‘the capital of peace,’ made a record of what they felt,

illuminating human emotion … While men wrote learned texts on the usual subjects of

war, law and religion, in the language ordinary people could not understand (Chinese, the

Japanese scholars’ equivalent of the Europeans’ Latin), women started writing novels in

the everyday Japanese language, and in the process invented Japanese literature. For

about a hundred years novels were written only by women. In this period, it was

shameful for an aristocratic woman to be dependent financially on her husband. She did

not move in to live with him on marriage; each kept their own home they had both the

ability and time to reflect on their relations with men, which were unusual in that there

were virtually no restrictions on sexual intercourse. Men could have many wives (some

went up to ten at a time) and even more. Wives were encouraged to have all the lovers

they could attract, and virgins were thought to be blemished, possessed by evil spirits.

Nobody expected a partner, either short or long term, to be faithful. A wife, indeed,

believed that if her husband had many mistresses, she was more likely to have exciting

and affectionate relations with him, provided she was the woman he preferred; that was a

constant challenge. But this system became a nightmare because these wonderfully

elegant people could not stand the uncertainty. Both men and women were morbidly

jealous, even though jealousy was regarded as a breach of good manners. They all pined
for security, though they were bored by it. Many were not content with their love life and

did not approve of having to share their husbands with other women but they did not have

a choice it was custom and tradition that the men have as many wives as he so pleased.

				
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