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Global Asia Studies
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Liang Chen

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Journal 4: The Tale of Genji and the Yi
Key Terms
The Tale of Genji (of Japan): While Lady Murasakis dates of birth and death are unknown; she
was probably born in 978 with her death following after 37 years in the year 1015 C.E. We dont
know her real name since in Heian Japan it was considered improper to record the personal
names of aristocratic women outside their imperial family. At about age 21 she was mar r ied to a
much older man, and bore a daughter. The next year her husband died, and in her grief she
considered becoming a Buddhist nun but turned instead to reflection on the problem of human
happiness, especially for women. Around that time, approximately the year 1001, she began work
on her masterpiece, The Tale of Genji, which was probably nearly finished when, some six years
later, she became a lady in waiting at the imperial cour t. Like the Genji, her journal describes the
refined and colourful life at court, as well as its less glamorous aspects of rivalries and intrigues.
Both are the subject of her great novel, which combines romantic as well as psychological
approach with realistic detail and subtle insight into human behaviour. It is still praised as the
chief masterpiece of all Japanese literature.
Genji deals with the life of a pr ince and his seemingly endless affairs with various court ladies,
including careful attention to the details of manners, dress, and cour t politics. Although the hero
is idealized, this is far more than a congenital romantic tale, including the subtle portrayal of
Genji as he grows older and the depiction of the pain of his promiscuity causes many of his
The Yi dynasty (of Korea, 1392-1910): Relating to the ideology of interconnectedness, Yi
dynasty Korea continued the adaptation of Chinese civilization to a greater extent than any of its
predecessors, including now the imperial examination system and Confucian bureaucracy. The Yi
capital at Seoul and the eight provinces into which the country was divided all followed the
Chinese model, and Yi rulers continued to accept the for mal status of a Chinese tributary state, a
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