The Tale Of Genji

Submitted By jhomlish
Words: 1149
Pages: 5

Entirely Different Perspective

Many East Asian countries had great influences on each other; however over time these influences were changed to allow many East Asian countries to develop their own identity. Also many of these influences differ greatly from those of the United States. This can especially be seen in marriage patterns and political systems. You can see throughout the novel the many influences that were from China which are shown in writing, music, and politics. The many cultural influences of China on Japan are seen throughout The Tale of Genji. When Genji is seven years old, he goes through the ceremonial reading of the Chinese classics which shows the importance of Chinese literature in Japan. Chinese poetry in particular was highly esteemed in Japanese society. Genji offers a verse of Chinese poetry and it was "received with high praise" (p. 20). Also the characters regularly exchange short verses of Chinese poetry in order to interact with each other. The attitude of respect for Chinese culture was also seen to influence the music as well. In many parts of the book, characters play a musical instrument called the Chinese Koto (p. 82, 232). At one point, Genji described a player as having a "Chinese elegance in his touch" (p. 292). Throughout The Tale of Genji, it is clear that the Japanese viewed the Chinese as masters in writing and music and tried as best as they could to copy their skill. Chinese influence was also very prevalent in the Japanese government system. As one can see in The Tale of Genji Japan's government system is set up as an imperial court. All the ranks present in Japan’s government system were adopted from China and the use of these titles can be seen in the novel as well. Genji's father had the rank of emperor followed then by the ministers, princesses, crown princes, and then the less than fortunate. In Heian Japan, a person is born into their status and titles were passed down from parent to child. Because of this, members of the Imperial Court would bear children who would also be members of the Imperial Court. The leaders came to power not by merit but through the amount of blood they shed. This would pose problems when a young child was pushed into power before maturity, as seen in Tale of Genji. In a case like this an older relative would be the child's "backer" and rule in his place. When Genji's father died, the Crown Prince was next in line for power and Genji was extremely worried. This was because he "had no strong backers" and the emperor was young in age. Also his grandfather was an impulsive type of man. What would the world be like, asked courtiers high and low, with such a man in control?" (p. 146, 196). This is extremely different from the American system, in which a person must put in many years of hard work before getting power. Even then, the people have control through voting of who is put in office. Even the entire American political system is structured differently. Japan has a hierarchy in which groups of people are put in a set order of power, with the Emperor ruling supreme over them all. In America, while some people do have more power, all people are considered equal. The governor, who has more influence than an average citizen, doesn't have any more rights. Also our federal government is an equalized system not a hierarchy because we have a system of checks and balances in order to ensure that no one person or small group has complete power. In addition to political system, Japan also differs greatly from America in terms of marriage traditions. Men were not required to live with their spouses. In the novel, it was said that Genji "spent little time at the Sanjo mansion of his bride" (p. 26). Americans almost always live with their spouses, except under extenuating circumstances. Genji also participated in numerous unfulfilling love affairs with other women. In most cases his advances are rejected and his lover