Murasaki Shikibu

[moo-rah-sah-kee shee-kee-boo]

(born circa 978, Kyōto, Japan) Japanese writer. Her real name is unknown, and the primary source of knowledge about her life is a diary she kept (1007–10). Her Tale of Genji (completed circa 1010) is a long and complex tale, concerned mostly with the loves of Prince Genji and the women in his life. Supremely sensitive to human emotions and the beauties of nature, it provides delightful glimpses of life at the court of the empress Jōtō mon'in, whom Murasaki served. It is generally considered the greatest work of Japanese literature and perhaps the world's first novel.

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The was one of the divisions of the Japanese government (Imperial Court in Kyoto), instituted in the Asuka period and formalized during the Heian period This Imperial ministry was concerned primarily with administrative matters. This part of the bureaucracy has been variously identified as the Ministry of the Civil Services, the Ministry of Legislative Direction and Public Instruction, and the Ministry of Civil Administration.

This ministry collected and maintained biographical archives of meritorious subjects.

The Shikibu-shō had the following duties:

  • Supervision of the listings of civil officers.
  • Assisting in court office and rank appointments, and rewarding meritorious service.
  • Supervision of schools and civil examinations.
  • Appointment of stewards in the houses of princes, as well as in the houses of kuge of the third rank and higher.
  • Supervision of pensions and donations.
  • Decisions relating to order of precedence at congratulatory occasions or festivals.

In the Edo period, titles related to the Shikibu-shō, such as Shikibu-dayū, were largely ceremonial and could be held by non-kuge, such as daimyō lords.


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