restricted access Shika Shichiron
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Part Two Views on Literature 158 SHIKA SHICHIRON Andō Tameakira | 1703 [This treatise is sometimes called Genji shichiron or Genji monogatari-­kō, based on the fact that the essay is constructed around “seven treatises” concerning the Tale of Genji. Instead of being a commentary on parts of the tale, Tameakira wrote about seven issues that he felt impeded a proper understanding of the tale. Being in the employment of Tokugawa Mitsukuni gave Tameakira access to a large amount of material, such as earlier diaries, that provided data so he could debunk previous mistaken theories about the authorship, make-­ up, and details found within the tale. His work appears to have greatly influenced Motoori Norinaga, who later also argues for the reassessment of the tale. This essay is an attempt to demonstrate that the tale could only have been written by Murasaki, because she had the talent and the circumstantial experience allowing her to write about a world and its interactions few openly talked about.] (1) ENDOWED WITH SUPERIOR TALENT AND WISDOM In general, being endowed with superior talent and wisdom is something difficult to expect even from one talented gentleman. How much more so is it a rare occurrence for such a woman to appear in either Japan or China. In this case people from long ago who have discussed Genji monogatari have only labeled Murasaki Shikibu as a gifted woman, and having failed to mention her practical wisdom they cannot elucidate the true meaning of the tale. This is also a defective and troublesome treatment of Murasaki. I have carefully read both the tale and Murasaki’s diary, weighing the quality of her writing, pondering on the facts surrounding her life, and I have found that she is without peer in Japan, an intelligent woman with superior talent and wisdom. If I were to add one or two things in relation to the tale, Lady Murasaki is depicted as refined and benevolent, a woman of good judgment and caution . Lady Akashi is portrayed as proud and yet humble; Hanachirusato, as a woman without jealousy; the Fujitsubo empress as pious, someone who regretted her transgression and quickly took Buddhist vows. Her Highness Asagao deeply valued her reputation, while Lady Tamakazura is able to avoid the proposals of men with her skillful words, and Lady Agemaki is true to the dying words of her royal father. The tale records these feminine virtues, especially in [the “Broom Tree” chapter] where women are catego- TAMEAKIRA | Shika shichiron159 rized; we find that frivolous women are rejected and integrity is praised. While we can label these recurrent admonitions as based on the disposition of Murasaki, she represents these as morals found in all ancient tales. Murasaki does not try to act self-­ righteous, so the reader thinks these events are simply hearsay. As an example, it is like someone in the audience not realizing the singing and dancing of the wooden puppet is due to the skill of the puppetmaster. A reading of Murasaki’s diary demonstrates these general principles. “It is very easy to criticize others but far more difficult to put one’s own principles into practice, and it is when one forgets this truth, lauds oneself to the skies, treats everyone else as worthless and generally despises others that one’s own character is clearly revealed.”1 Considering this counsel, one should give ear to what she says, that there is a despicable human tendency to treat others as wrong and yourself as right. The diary goes on, “People who think so much of themselves that they will, at the drop of a hat, compose lame verses that only just hang together , or produce the most pretentious compositions imaginable, are quite odious and rather pathetic.”2 She also writes, “Others are born pessimists, amused by nothing, the kind who search through old books looking for old things, carry out penances , intone sutras without end, and clack their beads, all of which makes one feel uncomfortable. So I hesitate to do even those things I should be able to do quite freely, only too aware of my own servants’ prying eyes. I have many things I would like to say, but always think the better of it, because there would be no point in explaining to people who would never understand. I cannot be bothered to discuss matters in front of those women who continually carp and are so full of themselves: it would only cause trouble. It is so rare to...


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