WOMEN OF HISTORY | MURASAKI SHIKIBU, LADY MURASAKI, 紫 式部 (c. 978 – c. 1014 or 1025) (Tae Kimura)
Author of what is often considered to be the first novel, Lady Murasaki was a writer, poet and lady- in-waiting to Empress Shōshi at the Japanese Imperial court. Her book, The Tale of Genji, was written sometime between 1000 and 1012, and although her fame endures because of this, her real name is a mystery: Murasaki Shikibu is a nickname, although it is possible her name was Fujiwara Takako.
Although women were usually excluded from learning Chinese - the language used in government - Murasaki was fortunate enough to be allowed by her father and became fluent. She married and had a daughter, and it’s thought that she began writing The Tale of Genji sometime after she was widowed. She spent several years in the Imperial Court, recording and writing there all the while. Eventually she retired from her role and the exact date of her death is unknown.
As well as its importance as a classic piece of Japanese literature, The Tale of Genji also gives irreplaceable insight into life in Heian court society at its peak.