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Traditional & Culture

Genji Monogatari: the oldest novel on Earth still makes the headlines

The Tale of Genji, or Genji  Monogatari for those who are familiar with the Japanese language, is the oldest Japanese novel. It’s often considered as the oldest novel ever published in the world. It tells the romantic adventures, the love stories, and the passions of prince Hikaru Genji, a sophisticated young noble man, son of the Emperor, during the Heian (794-1185) period. The novel is made of 54 chapters, and was originally written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu.

Portrait of Murasaki Shikibu by Tosa Mitsuoki

The original manuscript had never been discovered up to now, and the oldest copy available was assembled by poet Fujiwara no Teika, who compared different copies of the book existing at the time, in an attempt to recreate the original manuscript. On the 8th of October, experts have confirmed that a version of Teika’s fifth chapter “Wakamurasaki”, which was missing, has been found in the residence of the Okochi family in Tokyo. The Okochi family seems to have an ancestral link to Fujiwara no Teika himself. The manuscript was found in one of the house storage rooms, and materials found there are managed by the Reizeike Shiguretei Bunko foundation for the preservation of cultural heritage.

Old hand-written copy of The Tale of Genji

What a real best seller, if the Tale of Genji is still able to make headlines even 1,000 years after its first release!

Source: Yahoo Japan

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