A Tribute to Womanhood
Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.
(Japanese writer of the late Helian period; she wrote the world's first psychological novel)
Murasaki Shikibu was not her real name, which remains unknown. She was born 973 CE into a middle-level family of nobility. Her father was a scholar and a man of literacy who took great pains to see that his daughter, as well as his son, were well learned...and she was educated in Chinese and Buddhist classics as well as in Japanese literature.
When she was in her early twenties, she was married to an older man who was a distant relative. Their only child, a daughter, was born in 999. Then, in 1001, her husband died leaving Murasaki with a daughter and much grief and pain. Shortly thereafter, she was brought into the court of the imperial family as the youngest consort to the Emperor Ichijo due to her writing talent and brilliant mind.
It was in this background as a lady-in-waiting that she began writing her diary which recounts her life at court...while providing insight into her thoughts. For example, Mursaki wrote about how uncomfortable she was in court life. She felt it was all far too frivolous. She used some of what she'd recorded in her diary to write a fictional account about a prince named Gengi; it was the first known novel ever written. In it, she looks closely at the relationships of men and women and the unfortunate circumstances in which women find themselves placed in.
Little is known about her later life, it is possible that after the death of the emperor, she retired to a convent. Although it is not certain as to the date of Murasaki's death, she most likely passed away shortly after she finished the novel...perhaps when she was about forty or so. The early manuscripts and scrolls have survived through the ages, and the novel has been translated into many languages. Nearly all of her diary can be read at the following site. It is beautiful.
The Diary of Muraska Shikabu