Literature of Japan
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu deals heavily with Japanese religions and its influence on Japanese society. Themes of jealousy, responsibility and guilt are also mixed in with the religious themes. Religions and ideals clash through the course of the novel. Shikibu focused on the two religions of Buddhism and Shinto. Buddhism represents the modern day religion in the novel and Shinto is viewed as the old religion. As the novel progress the readers start to see the fusion of the two religions. Throughout the novel several people such as women and priests live their lives according to the religion they choose to follow. This work of Japanese literature also includes demons and spirits that possess the bodies of people living to perform harmful deeds. Religion and supernatural spirits play a significant role in The Tale of Genji. The Tale of Genji takes place during the Heian period in Japanese history. The story centers around privileged upper-class citizens. Most of their time is used for leisure and their whole world is revolves around the emperor. Most of the aristocrats were infatuated with social rank and reproducing, however their society did show appreciation for the elegance and beauty of nature. They also enjoyed simple pleasures such as poetry, music and calligraphy. Appearance was very important as-well for these elites. This exclusive group did not have too much knowledge of the outside world and they did not care to much for it. They hardly ever traveled and looked down on the common peoples. The women during the Heian era had little to no freedom. Due to society harsh circumstance the only men they were ever allowed to be seen with were their fathers and husbands (tales of genji). Much of their life’s were spent in solitude and they only went out on special occasions. Women took part in the special pilgrimages to Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines in order to escape from their average lifestyles. Many women became concubines for the court to live causal lifestyles. They were allowed to have numerous affairs with the men of the court. The Tale of Genji was surprising poplar among women because of the fact it acted an escape form their boring lifestyles. “The Tale of Genji had it all - romance, travel, encounters with the supernatural, and a hero so perfect he seemed to belong in a bygone age”(tales of genji) The men during the Heian era were not focused too much on a woman’s outer beauty and physical appearance due to the fact they were rarely seen in public. A woman’s hair was one of her most important features and it represented true beauty. Strong and long hair on women was looked on as very favorable. Men looked for women who were able to procreate and who were able to have tasteful talents such as poetry and calligraphy. The Heian society was very superficial and clothing had a very important role in their culture. Clothing for women had to be perfect, the colors and long overlapping sleeves were the fashion statement of the day(tale of genji). Men had allot of time due to lack of hard work, therefore most of their time was spent courting women of the court. Love affairs would occur secretly during this time period. The men would go over and visit their ladies and leave before the sun rises. They would exchange poems the next morning through messengers(tale of genji). The poems severed as way for the women to keep interest in the man and vice versa. The native religion of Japan is known as modern day Shinto(tale of genji). The beliefs in the original version of Shinto contained a combination of animal and deity worship. The imperial clan was believed to be directly descended from Amaterasu, the sun goddess(tales of genji). The religion of Shinto has no official doctrine or scriptures.
Muraskai was working on The Tale of Genji at time in which Buddhist and Shinto beliefs were slowly merging. Ceremonies along with...