• boxmint

(no subject)

Dragon and I are really starting to get along. I just sent my first social e-mail in-what, a year? Keep your fingers crossed for me.
(Whoops. But since I posted that, Dragon has begun insisting that this be posted to "reading Genji", and I can't convince it to switch back. Okay, let me see if I can think of something to say about the shining Prince.! Well, I have actually been rereading Ivan Morris 's the World of the Shining Prince, and although his attitudes have dated a bit, it's a dandy example of cultural history. His picture of the Heian era noblewoman, in her vast integument of clothing, with blackened teeth, hair down to her ankles, brooding in a darkened room,-well, I enjoyed it.
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I am an Australian living in Japan and working as an english teacher. Im interested in Japanese literature but am still not good enough at Japanese to read Genji.

 Ive decided to begin reading Genji in translation. I have had the Royal Tyler version on my shelf for so long and seem to have been scared off by the size. Anyway im working through a 3 month reading plan. But I am just a beginner and am up to chapter 3 so far.

Anyway Ill be looking for any supplementary journal articles etc that help explain the contect of Heian Japan or illuminate the story further. I saw some good links but they all need J STOR access.

If anyone has any good free links to Genji related articles please let me know! I will post more about my progress and any articles I find in the future..

Thanks for letting me post here!!

(no subject)

I recently finished my MA Thesis on the stories told by the men in the Hahakigi chapter (2), and in the course of that study I came across a very interesting theory of the ordering of the early chapters of Genji. It has long been recognized that there are problems in the early Genji chapters as they stand; they're in rough chronological order, but there are some odd features in them (one example is the way the Rokujo Haven appears in chapter 4 suddenly, as though the reader already knew who she was).

A theory advanced by Aileen Gatten and some Japanese scholars is that the chapters were not originally written in their current order, but were only later edited together (perhaps by Murasaki Shikibu herself) into chronological order.

The theory goes that there were three "layers" of composition:
1. The genesis of the tale was a proto-version of chapters 12 and 13 (Suma and Akashi); the "young noble in exile" was a common trope, as was the "discovering a good woman in the boondocks", so the story would have been very familiar.

2. The next chapters to be composed were 1, 5, 7-11, 14, 17-21. One of the primary pieces of evidence for this is that the characters introduced in the other chapters (i.e. Utsusemi, Suetsumuhana) do not appear in any of these chapters. Also, the story flows much better like this -- it's more focused on the Aoi/Murasaki/Fujitsubo/Rokujo "square". Chapter 1 has also been considered suspicious for a long time because careful reading of the chapter suggests that it was intended to give character background of a character with which the readers were already familiar. Also in chapter 5, there is a somewhat cryptic reference to the Akashi Lady early in the chapter, which makes a lot more sense if the readers already know her from reading #1 above.

3. After this, Murasaki Shikibu went back and wrote 2-4, 6, and 15-16. Now some of the oddities in these chapters seem less so. For instance, there is a very cryptic reference to Fujitsubo in chapter 2, but if we assume the reader has already read the chapters given in part 2, it's no longer so cryptic. The same can be said about the sudden entrance of Rokujo into chapter 4 -- if the reader is already familiar with her, it no longer seems so sudden.

From 22 and on, the chapters were probably composed in their present order.

This is somewhat of a controversial theory because it completely overturns longstanding theories of foreshadowing and other narrative techniques that had been given as examples of Murasaki Shikibu's narrative genius (i.e. the sudden introduction of Rokujo). But I do think that the beginning of the story would be much less overwhelming if you follow the 1, 5, 7-11 ordering given above -- there are many fewer extraneous characters and the action of the story is more focused.
  • jinian

Genji cameo in Perfect Girl Evolution

Perfect Girl Evolution is the story of four gorgeous boys trying to civilize a nonconformist girl who loves horror movies and can't cope with humans. It's very cute and funny, and it hasn't given me any spasms of feminist rage yet, which is pretty impressive for manga.

When Morii, "a romantic winner" himself, has a moment of o'erweening skankitude in chapter 31, who but Genji could suitably express the depths to which he descends?
wood cat

Bureaucracy in Heian Japan

From Ivan Morris' The World of the Shining Prince, a long quote that I had to share:

The procedure for issuing Imperial Decrees provides an example of Heian bureaucracy rampant. When the Great Council of State have decided on a proposal, they submit it to the emperor, whose secretaries rewrite it as a State dcoument, drafted of course in Chinese. After the emperor has read it, he automatically approves and signifies this by writing the day of the month in his own hand (the year and the month having already been filled in by the secretaries). The draft is then sent to the Ministry of Central Affairs. The minister makes a Report of Acknowledgement to the emperor. He then examines the document and (approval again being automatic) inscribes the Chinese character for "Proclaim" under his official title. The next stop is the office of the Senior Assistant Minister, who, after the usual delays, writes the character for "Received." The same procedure is followed by the Junior Assistant Minister, except that he writes the character "Perform." Now the draft goes to the Scribes' Office, where it is copied. The document is then sent back to the Great Council of State, where the Major Counsellor makes a Report of Acknowledgement. Next the emperor sees the document; this time he writes the character "Approved" and returns it to the Great Council. Here the document is thoroughly scrutinized and, if no stylistic mistakes are found, it is sent back to the Scribes' Office for multi-copying. Each copy is signed jointly by the Prime Minister and all other officials who are concerned with the matter in hand, and then sent to the palace for the ceremony of affixing the Great Imperial Seal (Seiin no Gi). Now finally the decree can be promulgated. Since, as often as not, it is concerned with some such question as the type of head-dress that an official of the Third Rank may wear at court, we can judge the prodigious waste of time and effort involved in government procedure.

Morris reports that the forms of bureaucracy were imported from China [*], but China, being somewhat larger, had more to occupy its bureaucrats.

[*] Except that one couldn't become a bureaucrat through a merit-based test.

Cross-posted to my journal.

wood cat

Wiki no longer empty

So I, uh, kind of went crazy on the wiki today, to the detriment of both my hands and chapter 21.

However, now we have a page for each chapter, the start of a character list, and some links to outside resources. Since it's no longer bare, go forth and edit! (I would really love if someone with Tyler's translation created a chronology.)

To edit an existing page, click "edit" at the top. (This is also a good way to see the syntax, which is quite simple.)

To add a new page, make a link to it in an existing page and then click the resulting link—this also avoids creating an "orphan" page that no-one finds because it's not linked from a browsable page. (Yes, I know you can search, but with long Japanese names I'm much more likely to browse than search.) For example, if you figured out the name of Tô no Chûjô's daughter who is consort to Genji and Fujitsubo's son, you could add her name to the character list in double square brackets, like so: [[name]]. This would create a link to "name", and when you click on the link, you'll be asked to create a new page where you can say, "Tô no Chûjô's daughter and consort to the Reizei Emperor."

(Links to non-existent pages are shown in red in the default view. There are a fair number of characters that I referenced in the synopsis but didn't create pages for yet.)