Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部; c. 973–c. 1014 or 1025), or Lady Murasaki as she is often known in English, was a Japanese novelist, poet, and a maid of honor of the imperial court during the Heian period of Japan. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1008, considered to be the earliest novel in human history.
"Murasaki Shikibu" was not her real name, which is unknown. Some scholars have postulated that her given name might have been Fujiwara Takako, recorded as a name of a lady-in-waiting ranked shōji on the 29th day of the 1st month, Kankō 4 (February 19, 1007) according to Midō Kampaku Ki, a diary written by Fujiwara no Michinaga, although this theory has not been supported by many others. Her own diary, The Murasaki Shikibu Diary, states that she was nicknamed "Murasaki" ("Violet") at court, after a character in The Tale of Genji. "Shikibu" refers to her father's position in the Bureau of Ceremony (shikibu-shō).
Lady Murasaki Shikibu was born about 973 in Kyoto, Japan. She was born in a family of minor nobility and a member of the northern branch of the Fujiwara clan.
Murasaki's mother died while she was a child, so Murasaki was raised, contrary to customs of the time, by her father Fujiwara no Tametoki, a scholar and officer of the imperial court. During Heian-era Japan, couples lived separately and children were raised by the mother and her family. Also contrary to customs of the time, her father gave her a male education. Men were taught kanji and classical Chinese literature as the requisite culture, while women were taught kana and poetry. Her father praised her intelligence and ability, but lamented that she was "born a woman". She was married in her early 20s and had one child, Daini no Sanmi, who was a poet in her own right.
At the royal court, she was the lady-in-waiting for Empress Shoshi (Akiko) and may have been hired by Fujiwara no Michinaga to serve the Empress.
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