The Tale of Genji is considered one of the greatest works in Japanese literature. In it contains a great richness and detail about court life and expectations during the Heian period. The author, Murasaki Shikibu, lived in the palace during the time she was under the service of Empress Akikio, which no doubt greatly influenced her writing of the Tale of Genji (Waley, x, xxi-xxii). In this book, Genji, also known as the Shining Prince, is the main protagonist and is thought to be the ideal man. The early chapters are rich in detail of his relationships and interactions with many women and the views of what is acceptable in their society at the time.
Genji was noted over and over again for his beauty and talent. In fact the only person that was known to have hated him was the Kokiden Consort. She influenced Genji's exile, while everyone else was against it. When this happened though everyone missed him. They especially yearned to hear him play since he was so talented in music. At the festival of the cherry blossoms Genji played with the sō no koto. It was later seen in the Akashi chapter that Genji played with a Chinese instrument, the kin. In addition to music Genji also danced magnificently at the festival.
The ideal man had to be sentimental. By far, the greatest of the arts was the ability to write poetry. Poems allowed feelings to be conveyed. It often showed the intelligence and status one was in. Especially during the Heian period, to cry was not an unmanly attribute. In fact in order to be great at writing poetry, it was the ability to write out how one felt in a symbolic and elegant way. Genji was most notably known for his excellent execution of creating poetry. It was often said that his poems were unmatched causing many who heard it to cry. Genji’s gift in painting was seen in chapter seventeen. Everyone commented on his breathless and flawless picture and how it was able to captivate everyone. When his picture was presented, his side had clearly won. However, before his breathtaking painting, the contest was a tie.
In Genji’s case the fact that he was able to show an acceptable appearance and hide most of his scandalous affairs were what made him an ideal man at the time. A man must leave before he was seen with a woman, especially to avoid rumor and criticism. During the Heian period it was well known that men in the court generally had affairs, but due to their status the women
they spent time with must also be of a certain status. This did not stop men’s hearts to sway at the sight of a pretty girl though; it just meant they had to be able to conceal their lapse of judgment better. He was so good at this that many people perceived him as being serious and appropriate.
When the emperor was talking to Genji about Akikonomu he stated, “Never cause a woman to suffer humiliation” (Tyler 163). A man’s pride had a lot to do with the type of woman a man had. She could easily lift his social status or drop it...