Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Shikibu Murasaki's The Tale of Genji. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Tale of Genji: Introduction
The Tale of Genji: Plot Summary
The Tale of Genji: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Tale of Genji: Themes
The Tale of Genji: Quotes
The Tale of Genji: Characters
The Tale of Genji: Terms
The Tale of Genji: Symbols
The Tale of Genji: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Shikibu Murasaki
Historical Context of The Tale of Genji
Other Books Related to The Tale of Genji
- Full Title: The Tale of Genji
- When Written: 1000-1012 BCE
- Where Written: The Heian-kyō imperial court
- When Published: The original was published as 54 individual chapters as they were written. The English translation used in this LitChart was published in 1976.
- Literary Period: Classical Japanese (Heian)
- Genre: Tskuri-Monogatari (a Japanese genre that describes extended prose narratives that deal specifically with court intrigue and romance)
- Setting: Heian, Japan (now Kyoto), approximately 900-940 BCE
- Climax: Genji returns to court from exile
- Antagonist: Minister of the Right and Kokiden
- Point of View: Third person omniscient
Extra Credit for The Tale of Genji
The Longest Hair. Heian women were expected to grow their hair out at least to the floor. One woman reportedly took this requirement to the extreme—her hair was seven meters long!
But Who Is She? Nobody knows who exactly Murasaki Shikibu was; the name she's known by now isn't her real name and instead, likely references her father and colors she commonly wore. This mystery has also led to questions of authorship, as some historians believe she only wrote some of the 54 total chapters in Genji. However, all of this is extremely difficult to prove one way or another given that the original text didn't survive and her readership often copied the original chapters to read, which may account for some of the syntax differences.