honey suckle

honey suckle



In the Japanese style room of our house, we have hung two wood-cut prints of the Tale of Prince Genji (Genji Monogatari 源氏物語) on the wall.  The theme of both prints is summer.  This room is cooler in summer, and I often sit on tatami (Japanese style carpet) and read books.
Today I introduce my favorite stories of the Tale of Genji.

In 2008 millenary of Genji Monogatari was celebrated in Japan, and in October 2008 I visited Kyoto (the former capital of Japan for more than one thousand years) where the novel had been written by a lady author, Murasaki Shikibu.
We could watch the parade of the festival of Jidai Matsuri (時代祭).  This festival is held every year on 22nd of October.  The large parade travels from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine.  Jidai Matsuri is Japanese for "Festival of Ages", and the participants of the parade are dressed in old costumes from almost every period of Japanese history.  Three photos below show traditional costumes and cars of the Heian Period (794-1185).

I bought some copies of wood-cut prints of Genji Monogatari at the antique shop in Kyoto.  After that I started to read the books translated to modern Japanese, and it took almost six months to read all 54 chapters of the story.

The tale of Prince Genji is a long love novel, and is indeed a unique work characterized by its rich expession of human affection.  The hero of this novel, Prince Genji, is endowed with the wonderful art of love.  He loved very many persons, who reciprocated his love with no less enthusiasm, but he cannnot be described simply as a lady-killer.  Not only handsome, but also very intelligent, he shows himself sometimes very introspective.  This novel can be said to be one of the best romances in Japanese literature.
This unique love romance was translated in part into English by Dr. Kencho Suematsu in 1882, and then the entire English translation of this novel was completed by Dr. Arther Waly (1933).  Since then, it has come to be widely read in Europe and America.

Pictorial representations whose subject matter comes from the Tale of Genji are called Genji-e(picture of Genji 源氏絵), and they are either a single painting of a particular scene or a series of episodes in various formats such as handscrolls (emaki 絵巻), booklets (sasshibon 冊子本) or folding screens (byoubu 屏風).  So many pictorial representations have been made since 11th century.
The wood-cut prints I bought were rather new, printed in 1958.

The forth chapter of the story 'Yuu-gao' (夕顔) is one of the popular chapters of Genji Monogatari, and I love it.

In summer and autumn of the seventeenth year of Prince Genji, He met a young woman at the house where white 'Yuu-gao' (bottle gourd 夕顔)flowers bloomed on the fence of the entrance.  They loved each other, and one morning they went in search of a house where they would have more privacy.  All morning and afternoon, they exchanged the happy words of love.  Night finally fell and enveloped the two lovers in warm quietness.  As night deepened, Yuu-gao (the young woman named from the flower of her house) said she was frightened to sleep in the inner chambers, and the two slept in the front room.  Genji had fallen into a deep slumber for some time when he was rudely awakened.  He thought he had heard the jealous voice of the Lady Rokujo who had loved Genji.  He grabbed his sword and called out to awake the people in the house.  The waiting woman and others hurried to his chamber, and they were paralyzed with fear and could do nothing.   After the initial moment of surprise Prince Genji put his hand on Yuu-gao's face.  She was not breathing.  Alarmed Genji rudely shook her but no response came.  She was dead, and was already becoming cold.  "Dearest, come back and let me see your beautiful eyes again" the Prince cried as he threw himself in sorrow over the lifeless body of his lover....

Shows the astonished hero raising the body of his sweetheart in his arms.  

Bottle gourd flowers (夕顔の花)

This post became too long, and the next story will be in the next post.  

1 comment:

  1. How delightful to have two pictures representative of love in your home. I await the next instalment of the story!


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