Aoi no Ue

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Aoi no Ue (葵の上?) is a fictional character in The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). Daughter of the Minister of the Left ( Tō no Chūjō’s sister) and Genji’s first principal wife, she marries Genji when she is sixteen and he only twelve. Proud and distant to her husband, Aoi is constantly aware of the age difference between them and very much hurt by Genji’s philandering. For a short while, after giving birth to Genji’s son, Yūgiri, and suffering episodes of spirit possession, does Aoi actually appear appealing in Genji’s eyes. The episode of spirit possession itself (mono no ke) is extremely controversial and brings forward two female characters of the tale: Aoi (Genji’s wife) and Lady Rokujō (Genji’s mistress). The relationship between the two women may be that between victim and aggressor, if one follows the traditional interpretation of spirit possession,[1] or that between accomplices expressing their discontent with the Heian system of polygynous marriage (and with Genji, obviously).[2] Aoi dies at the end of the “Aoi” chapter and her exit from the tale is thus definitive.

Aoi no Ue is also the title of a Noh play about her, translated as Lady of the Court, or in the modern version by Yukio Mishima, The Lady Aoi.

In popular culture[edit]

Pioneering electronic music composers Joji Yuasa and Toshiro Mayuzumi both composed a piece entitled Aoi no Ue.

Aoi Ue also appears as a character in the famous Salman Rushdie novel, The Moor's Last Sigh.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Royall Tyler tends to interpret spirit possession at face value, at least in the case of another female character, Ukifune. Tyler, Royall and Susan. “The Possession of Ukifune.” Asiatica Venetiana, 5 (2002): 177-209.
  2. ^ Doris Bargen, A Woman’s Weapon: Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997.