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THE TALE OF GENJI (ca. 1021)
by Murasaki Shikibu

Literary Salons at the Heian Court
There was a great flourishing of culture in Heian Japan (794-1185) during the court dominance of the Fujiwara family. The Fujiwaras acted as regents to the emperors and increased their power by intermarriage with the imperial family. The outstanding instance is that of Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1027), who married his daughters to four emperors and saw three of his grandsons become emperors.

Robert Oxnam :: It was in the Heian period, when the Fujiwara court was at its height, that the famous Tale of Genji was written.

Haruo Shirane :: The Tale of Genji is the world's first novel, and it's written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, and she was a lady-in-waiting at the imperial court.

She served Empress Shoshi, whose father was [Fujiwara no] Michinaga. He was a regent, and the most powerful person of the time.

H. Paul Varley :: ... Fujiwara no Michinaga, and he lived at the time of the writing of the Tale of Genji, and in fact, even made a sexual advance upon the author or authoress of the Tale of Genji, as she records in her diary.

Haruo Shirane :: And Michinaga scoured the court to find the most talented women that he could find. And so she served Empress Shoshi. There was another consort, Empress Teishi, and she had a literary salon, and one of her ladies-in-waiting was Sei Shônagun, the author of the Pillow Book. And so the Pillow Book and the Tale of Genji, the two great masterpieces of this period, and they come from competing literary groups within the same imperial court.