Men, this chapter is mainly about women. Women, it is mainly about men who talk about women. During the Heian period there was no football so what would men talk about otherwise. Politics? There was peace and that arena was therefore mainly one of fussy discussions and bureaucracy. Nothing but shifting paper back and forth. You had to ensure that you met all social protocols. The game of power and prestige must always be played in the right way.
[lgc_column grid=”50″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]The Tale of Genji
Art, yes that was important. Especially the making and receiving of poems was crucial. Miyabi, courtly refinement, was the most important social law. Donald Keene Professor Emeritus, Japanese literature at Columbia University, wrote: “Nothing in the West can be compared to the role aesthetics have played in Japanese life and history since the Heian period”; and “The Miyabi spirit of refined sensitivity is still very present” in modern Japanese aesthetics. Closely related to Miyabi is the concept of “Mono no aware” which can be translated as the sensitivity to things or the ability to be emotionally touched by things.” It does not matter whether it concerns the feelings of people or the beauty of nature.
The world of Genji was claustrophobic. The nobles, increasingly dominated by the Fujiwara clan, who lived together in Heian-kyō (nowadays Kyoto) were perhaps only a thousand in number. At the beginning of the tenth century, the city had about a hundred thousand inhabitants. Heian-kyō was not such an old city yet. Only from the seventh century did members of the Hata clan settle there. These were immigrants from Gaya or Sila (scientists are still fighting), countries in Korea.
Downtown Kyoto was a closed city where ordinary people had no access. They could deliver their belongings at one of the gates. Farmers, citizens, and outdoor people; they simply did not exist for the nobles. Everything was only about that group of the elect. Their world divided into ranks and classes formed an island. The habitat was no larger than 4 square kilometres. The city was named capital in 794 and modelled after Chang-an, the capital of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Feng-Sui principles were the most important starting point in this.
Read about Feng Sui and famous East Asian capitals on: in my story “Shikibu s” Mono no aware “, predicts transient beauty: on this site
Dairi/内裏 the imperial palace could be seen from every square meter. Genji was a son of Emperor Kiritsubo and a low placed concubine, Kiritsubo Kōi. In the first chapter of the book, it becomes clear that the Emperor really loved this concubine and that was not liked. Genji was because he was a pretty nice and kind boy and, moreover, his mother’s son, the Emperor’s favourite. He was called “Hikaru” the shining one. Everyone liked him. Lady Kokiden, a higher placed concubine, was rather jealous, which caused all kinds of political opposition. To protect Genji (and himself) from this, the Emperor removed him from the line of succession to the throne. Genji was named Minamoto and started a career as an imperial officer.
So: the second chapter!
Genji is now married to Aoi. She is four years older than him and daughter of the “Minister of left” (Sadajin). No Chūjō, (secretary officer) is her brother, the in-laws were associated with the Fujiwara clan who in this manner binding themselves to the Imperial family. Tō nee Chūjō was the best friend of Genji. In chapter two we find them in Genji s residence in the Imperial Palace. Later in the chapter also the Secretary Equerry from the left (Sami no Kami) and the Fujiwara Aide of Ceremonial (Tō Shikibu no Jö).
The conversation was about women and which you could choose the best. Whether you were placed high or low in the Heian hierarchy was extremely important.
(I now realize that I will certainly have to come back to that hierarchy in one of my next comments. (Oh mother sweet! This becomes a book in itself, I will succeed in this self-recorded task so that many will read it! May all Kami help me!)
“Oh come now, Genji thought, it is rare enough to find anyone like that among the highborn! Over soft, layered white gowns he had only a dress cloak, unlaced at the neck. and lying there in the lamplight, against a pillar, he looked so beautiful that one could have wished him a woman. For him, the highest of the high seemed hardly good enough.”
But who? He was already married and flirted with women from high to low. This, of course, within the clan of nobles. After all, the ordinary woman did not exist. I also wonder if this is the first gay erotic scene that has been put on mulberry paper in Japan. I can well imagine that you meet someone of your own sex that you think: “If that was not the case, then I would do my best.”
I myself had that at a very young age. It was 1965 and I was seven. My parents, Catholic, had just received their first black and white television. One evening a movie of the Stones was playing live “Paint it Black.”
Of course, I was immediately crazy about the music and performance they gave and about one artist, in particular: Brian Jones playing on his sitar. So completely different from the rest of the band, not at all belonging to it … An angel, Brian Jones Hikaru!
Genji must have made the same impression on his companions. Please note that Genji is fiction and Brian Jones of course not. I notice that Murasaki Shikibu, lady-in-waiting, prominent in the Fujiwara clan, wrote this. Women did not deal much with men, they always stayed inside their own houses surrounded by other ladies. They had little knowledge about how men actually were. And then this observation. It makes it clear to me how great her imagination was, how sublime she was as a writer.
During the Heian period, it was very common for men to marry several women. In addition, they had concubines and courting happily. It was still quite a hassle to meet women. After all, they all stayed behind curtains and screens within their own homes. But men talk about women and when you were curious then you did your thing.
You wrote a poem or borrowed one from Chinese literature. That calligraphed you on a nice piece of paper. You sprinkled this with the perfume usually made by yourself. A beautiful flower was of course absolutely great. This was delivered to the lady of your choice. All this, of course, taking into account all the rules of the Miyabi. If you had touched the lady’s feelings with your poem (Mono no Aware), she wrote a poem as an answer. It can also go wrong with all that courting and love.
We also read at the end of the chapter: “When he (Genji) learned that there was no hope, her astonishing obduracy made him detest his own existence that his distress was painfully obvious. For some time he was silent and only heaved great sighs. He was very hurt.”“I who never knew what it was the broom tree meant now wonder to find the road to Sonohara led me so far from my way. “I have nothing to say, “he wrote at last. She, too, was still awake, and she answered,
‘Stricken with regret to have it known, she was born in a humble home, the broom tree you briefly glimpsed fades and is soon lost in view.”
To fully understand the poems I read the note:
“(From a distance the broom tree looks like an upside-down broom. According to legend, there was a broom tree in Sonohara (Shinano province) that disappeared from sight as soon as you approached it. The Sonohara broom tree was in a place that Fuseya was called, a name meaning “insignificant hut.” The woman in question, that of the vice-governor is ashamed of her social inferiority.)”
To be short, Genji reply’s to the stories about women who were told by the other captain: “All and All, the scold, though not easily forgotten, was so demanding to live with anyone have tired of her; the ever-so-clever women with her koto music was guilty of sheer wantonness; and there is every reason, too, to doubt the fragile one I just told you about. And so, in the end, it is simply impossible to choose on women over another. That is how it is with them: each is bound to be trying, one way or another. Where will you find the one who has qualities we have talking about and none of the faults? Set your heart on Kichijōten herself, and you will find her so pious and stuffy, you will be sorry!” All cheerfully laughed. But you assistant director, continued the Captain, you will also know a nice story. Let s hear it! “
Kichijōten is the Indian goddess Lakshmi who is included in Buddhism. She is found in many Japanese temples and is worshipped as the goddess of happiness, fertility and beauty. She is too ambitious even for Genji. In the following chapters, we will experience how he tries to achieve the highest possible level for himself. The story of Genji is fortunately not just a story about love. Politics is also going to play a major role. Because Genji was also very skilled in this. This is what has been told to me.