Illustrations of Moral Conduct Compared with the Chapters of Genji

(Nazorae Genji kyôkun zue, 准源氏教訓圖會)

Publisher: Maru-ya Jimpachi of Tôriabura-chô

c. 1843

 

The Tales of Genji (Genji monogatari) is the greatest novel in classical Japanese literature, and arguably, the world’s first novel.  It was written in the first decade of the eleventh century by Lady Murasaki, and relates the womanizing exploits of Prince Genji.  Each of the fifty-four chapters of the novel is named and is associated with a crest called a Genji-mon.  Two different forms of the crests are reproduced below, although the Genji-mon and the identification of the chapter in the text do not always match.  The title of this series uses the teaching of morality and reference to classical literature as pretexts to portray full-length pictures of beautiful women (bijin).  It is listed as number 80 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961), and the total number of prints is unknown.  The prints in this series are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.

 

                

Chapter number: 1

Chapter name: Kiritsubo (Paulownia Court, 桐壺)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) watching falling maple leaves

 

NOTE: The print bears the Genji-mon for chapter 10, but is identified in the text as chapter one.

 

 

Chapter number: 3

Chapter name: Utsusemi (Shell of Locust)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) with a tobacco pipe watching a boy catch a cricket with a net 

 

NOTE: Crickets were often kept in cages in order to enjoy the sound they produced

 

  

Chapter number: 8

Chapter name: Hana no en (花宴, Festival of Cherry Blossoms)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) kneeling while eating soft rice balls (higan dango) with tea

 

NOTE: The print bears the Genji-mon for chapter 26, but is identified in the text as chapter eight.

 

Another state of the above design

 

   

Chapter number: 13

Chapter name: Akashi (Akashi, 明右)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) standing

 

 

   

Chapter number: 17

Chapter name: E-awase (絵合, Picture Contest)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) on the floor playing with toy prints (omocha-e), while a child crawls over her

 

NOTE: The print bears the Genji-mon for chapter 43, but is identified in the text as chapter 17.

 

 

 

Chapter number: 19

Chapter name: Usugumo (薄雲, Wisps of Cloud)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) leaning against the outside wall of a building watching geese descend in front of a full moon

 

NOTE: The print bears the Genji-mon for chapter 41, but is identified in the text as chapter 19.

 

  

Chapter number: 51

Chapter name: Ukifune (Boat on the Water, 浮船)

Scene: Beautiful women (bijin) in the snow holding an umbrella

 


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