In the Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu writes about the life and times of the Heian court, including examples about how the ideal man and woman should act during this period. The Heian period is considered the peak of Japanese aristocratic culture in terms of art, literature and poetry. The Heian period is called the golden age of peace and harmony. It is appropriate that Murasaki Shikibu would describe the ideal man and woman when writing about this golden age in Japanese history. (Heian Period)
Prince Genji is the ideal Heian man because he is handsome, sensitive, a wonderful poet, and a beautiful dancer. (Tale of Genji)
He is physically very beautiful and not one woman ...view middle of the document...
During the Heian period, men could have several wives and many mistresses. Men were free to come and go as they pleased and the family unit was not the same as it is today. With these Heian traditions, it is easier to understand how Genji could be a lover to so many different women even though these traditions would be frowned upon today in most countries throughout the world. (Tale of Genji)
Even though Genji had many lovers in his time, he is considered a very sensitive and thoughtful person because he never leaves his women that he has made love with, he always takes care of them or sees that they are cared for. He is not the “traditional” Don Juan or Casanova who loves women and then leaves them. He takes good care of his wife Aoi, who falls sick and dies. In the case of his future wife Murasaki, Genji takes her in as a little girl, helps to raise her, and patiently awaits the time when she will become his wife. (Heian Period)
In Chapter 2 “The Broom Tree,” Genji and his associates discuss the qualities of the ideal woman or wife.
There is acknowledgement that a perfect woman would be difficult to find. “I have finally realized how rarely you will find a flawless women, one who is simply perfect.” (Tyler 20)
Women of the highest class tend to be spoiled and are difficult to approach. Women in the middle aristocratic class are more approachable and easier to get to know. “When a girl is highborn, everyone pampers her and a lot about her remains hidden, so that she naturally seems a paragon. Those of middle birth are the ones among whom you can see what a girl really has to offer and find ways to distinguish one from another.” (Tyler 21)
A woman’s rank in society should match her behavior and when they do not, this is something to worry about. “When a girl’s rank at birth and her reputation agree, when she commands general respect but is still disappointing in her person and her behavior, you obviously cannot help wondering sadly why she turned out like that. Of course, when her personal qualities match her rank, you take them for granted and are not surprised.” (Tyler 22)
Running a household requires a woman to have many skills just like people who serve the Emperor. “It is probably just as difficult to find a truly capable man to uphold the realm in His Majesty’s service. Think of the one and only who is to run your little household, and you realize how many important things there are to be done right.” (Tyler 23)