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Samurais Values In The Tale Of Genji English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1121 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“The Tale of Genji” is one of the greatest works in Japanese and world literature. It was created at the turn of X-XI centuries, in the era of rapid formation and flowering of Japanese culture. Its author was a lady, known as Murasaki Shikibu.

This books tells about the life of that period in Japan, having some historical incidents, including the life and traditions of samurai. It tells about the life of Genji, a son of the Japanese emperor, also known as Hikaru Genji.

The tale concentrates on his romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. Genji’s was a well known man, respected and honorable, and also a good looking. His most important personality trait is the loyalty, the trait he shows to all the women in his life.

Once Genji found a house on Gojo, over the roof of which he saw a green vine, with beautiful white flowers called “yugao” – the “twilight beauty”.

Soon Genji got acquainted with the lady of the house, they fell in love with each other, and he visited her every night. However, their happiness did not last long, as “an evil spirit possessed Yugao” and she suddenly died.

Genji was so upset, he blamed himself for the death of his love. “There is no telling how depressed and disappointed he was!”. ( Puette, William J, 78)

At the same time he kept everything in a secret, not to let anybody know what had happened, as it was a question of his reputation.

With the help of Koremitsu, his confident, Yugao’s funeral was held secretly, but with all due respect.

One evening, one of Yugao’s servant ladies Ukon told Genji who her mistress really was. “Although she had blue blood in her veins, Yugao lost her parents when she was little. So shy and humble was Yugao that she would hide everything behind her sorrowful smiles. But her memories would never perish from Genji’s heart”.

It is important to point out, that the main character was a samurai, so he had certain values. An outlook of Samurai – “Bushido” – is the unwritten code of conduct of Samurai in the society, it is a set of rules and norms of the true ideal of a warrior. “Bushido” means “the way of the samurai, the warrior”, in addition the word is also translated as ” duty, morality”.

Thus, bushido – is samurai morality, virtue, moral and ethical code. Bushido is a practical morality, samurai believed it is method of improving mental and physical health. 

Bushido was designed to teach proper life in feudal Japanese society. It combined a theory of existence and the study of the human psyche, and solved issues related to the notion of the essence of the individual, its role in the world, 

meaning of life, good and evil, moral values and moral ideal.

Samurai was keenly aware of their moral duty, in particular their personal responsibilities in relation to overlord, had to assess their own actions and deeds, morally condemn themselves if misconduct, breach of duty.( Puette, William J, 145)

The main value of samurai, first of all, was loyalty to overlord, expressed in service to overlord, to be of service is to put another above yourself. Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person or cause. It relied

the provisions of loyalty, drawn from Shinto, Buddhist belief in impermanence of all earthly things, which strengthened from a samurai spirit of sacrifice and do not fear death, and philosophy of Confucianism, which made loyalty of the first virtue. Near loyalty was the principle of duty. (Shirane, 45)

One of the key value of Samurai was personal courage, unbending courage. “True courage is to live, when lawfully to live, and die when lawfully to die”. ” Samurai should go to the death with a clear consciousness of what to do and that is not worth his dignity”.

The sense of honor is also very important. The consciousness of self-esteem is brought up in Samurai from childhood. Warriors strictly guarded their “good name”, a sense of shame was for the samurai hardest. We can see at in the book, while Genji always behaved with sense of honor, he said : “I should weigh every word and always ask myself, is it true that I’m going to say”. Also Genji was polite with women, he showed his good attitude and manners to all the women in his life, as he never abandoned any of them. He had the true goodness of the mind and spirit, the unbiased kindness to do good.

Honor and glory valued higher than life for samurai, .

In all his actions samurai was supposed to come from considerations of the higher justice and fairness. A true samurai had only one judge of his honor – himself, as you cannot hide from yourself.

It is important to point out such value as the Wisdom of Honesty, as honesty is the human quality of communicating and acting truthfully, related to truth as a value, and Genji tried to be honest, and first of all with himself.

So “The Tale of Genji” is one of the greatest works in Japanese literature, as it truly depicts life and traditions of samurai in that time. “The tale of Genji” shows socio-philosophical traditions of the society, it is devoted to samurai tradition, existed for thousands of years. Those looking fierce and tough warriors, ready at any time to resort to his sharp shiny swords, were stern and ascetic life, full of inner discipline and poetry. Their whole life comes down to, to die with dignity, while maintaining their honor. Their world is based on honor, generosity, service, courage, sacrifice and a highly developed culture.

Love theme is reflected very touching in the book, and sad heartfelt poetry with oriental motifs emphasizes the dramatic, romantic atmosphere and a samurai love theme of the book.

Feel the deep meaning, a philosophy, and enjoy the overall beauty of the book, and also learn a lot from the eastern people – patience, generosity, diligence, discipline, ability to appreciate every moment of life lived …

Work cited:

Puette, William J. Guide to the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. Rutland, (1983)

Shirane, Haruo. Envisioning the Tale of Genji: Media, Gender, and Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press(2008)

Morris, Ivan. The World of the Shining Prince. New York, 1994.

Mostow, Joshua S. Picturing ” The Tale of Genji”. The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese. April 1999. (1-25)


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