Talk:The Tale of Genji

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Can someone fill in the three gradual stages part? There are only two listed and they only cover 54 chapters, while 56 are listed just below.


If the book was written in kana, why are kanji used in the chapter headings? - Montréalais 03:04, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Good point. The original book was in kana with an occasional chinese character, kanjis came later. What is the source of the kanjis? I think they should be last, not first. They are interesting, but most people can't read them. Asereje 02:38, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Kanji came first, then kana developed from them. The script in use at the time of Genji's writing was sort of an amalgam -- multiple kanji simplifications were used for each kana (some of which are nearly identical to modern kana).

No surviving manuscript of the Tale of Genji is written in "all kana", and I think this is more of a legend than actual fact, especially since one of the few things we know about Murasaki Shikibu is that she knew Chinese characters well. (-Chris Kern)

Mursaki wrote in kana because she was a woman writing for women, and Chinese characters was a masculine pursuit. While women could study them and write them, and Murasaki's calligraphy and writing were known to be particularly good, it was deemed feminine to be discreet. Murasaki criticized her literary rival Sei Shonagon on showing off her ability to write Chinese, calling her Chinese poems "garish" or something like that. Jealousy, one wonders. The The earliest known manuscripts for the Genji date from 400 years after Murasaki's death, and would most likely use Chinese characters.
Also the chapters are known by traditional names, but it's uncertain that these were the names Murasaki used, or even that she used any chapter names at all. I could be wrong about this last point, but it is well known that the characters in the Genji are not named. They have names of course but Heian yokibito society deemed it impolite to actually use them. This practice survives today: the emperor is never ever referred to by name (Akihito) nor will he ever. After he passes away, he will be known as the Heisei emperor, as Hirohito is known as the Showa emperor. Vincent 10:32, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)
There is a theory that suggests the "standard names" we have now for the characters were in use even during Murasaki's life. This is due to a comment in her diary that refers to Murasaki the character. However, this is not conclusive because the character is actually called "Murasaki no Ue" or "Waka Murasaki" in the tale itself.

Commenting on the above discussion made me read the article over again. It was in need of a major rewrite. Vincent 11:59, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

56 Chapters?[edit]

The division into 56 chapters rather than 54 is strange; I don't believe I've ever seen it divided that way before. The author of the page for some reason divided Yuugiri into two chapters, and Kumogakure was given a number (usually even when it appears in a text of the tale the chapter is not numbered).

Perhaps someone should also give the "official" translations of the chapter titles used by Waley, Seidensticker, and Tyler. (The translations appearing in the article are rather odd.)

Speaking of that, I guess there should be a section on the English translations as well. - Chris Kern

World's first novel[edit]

Currently the article implies Japanese scholars dispute the term "first", but I think the main objection that Japan scholars have is with calling Genji a "novel." The novel is a Western (and quite modern) concept. It implies certain conventions and notions that just don't apply to Genji. The classic examples people raise:

1) in Genji the protagonist dies in the middle of the book (that's if you agree Genji is the "protagonist")
2) it's extremely episodic; there isn't a clear narrative arc
3) it was also read mainly by arisocrats, whereas the Western novel emerged as a popular artform
4) in Genji poetry and prose are perfectly fused, and it was first read mainly for its poetry really

I'm sure more knowledgeable people have more nuanced things to say about this, but while I think it's okay to CALL it a novel for lack of a better word, I believe it is important to caution the reader the problems with this. -- Dec 7, 04 Alex

I reverted the deletion of the claim that many consider Genji to be the world's first novel. This is a widely-held belief and it shouldn't be expunged from the article.

So if it ain't true, it needs to be explained, at least. - Sekicho 14:13, Nov 1, 2004 (UTC)

Sorry, my mistake. We had a discussion of the Genji-is-1st-novel theory elsewhere, not here. Please see Talk:Japanese literature for why it isn't the first novel. Vincent 14:21, 1 Nov 2004 (UTC)
This still needs to be at least mentioned in the article. Any student of Japanese literature has heard, at some point in their life, that Genji is the world's first novel. Whether you agree with that assertion or not, it's a very common claim and it needs to be either stated or debunked so that people understand why Genji is important. Sekicho 20:40, Nov 1, 2004 (UTC)
Exactly. When I put in the reference to it being the "first novel," I tried to make it clear that this was a disputed claim, though maybe I didn't put in enough weasel words. The point is that people who take Japanese literature classes "learn" that it is, so the article should at the least have a link to some where that people can here why it is or isn't considered to be the first novel. --Carl 05:04, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
False claims do not need to be mentioned. To summarize the long argument in Talk:Japanese Literature:
1. Genji isn't the world's first novel the same way Shakespeare isn't the first English playright;
2. Japanese people don't even call it a novel (shosetsu) they call it a monogatari (a tale) and it isn't the first of those.
3. It might not even be the most influential work of Japanese lit, e.g. few roman-fleuve are published today but thousands of Pillow-Book type essays are published each month in Japan.
That your Japanese lit teachers said it was so doesn't make it so. It is an opinion first published heaven knows when, probably in a 19th century memoir of Japan, and has been parrotted ever since, the same way biology textbooks always mention Lamarck when they introduce Darwin even though it's a now anachronistic and useless comparison.
To call it the first novel is a POV opinion that depends on a fuzzy definition of what a novel is, and on a subjective evaluation of whether or not the Genji fits that definition. This doesn't belong in Wikipedia. If it's to be written up at all, it could be placed under the heading "Reading the Genji today". Cheers,Vincent 13:31, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I disagree. Since this is a commonly parroted "falsehood" it deserve a mention-- if only to debunk it. For example, in an article about human ribs, it would make sense to say, "Males and females have the same number of ribs, although a common wives tale purports otherwise and assigns the difference to God's taking a rib from Adam in the Biblical story of creation."
Do men and women have a different number of ribs? Hell no! Do a lot of people think they do? Sadly, yes. Is it worth mentioning, if only to disprove it? Again, yes.
You yourself admit that a number of Japanese professors continue to parrot some old 19th century book about "Genji" being the first novel. So why not stop the parroting by letting people know that it isn't?--Carl 16:17, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
(PS. I checked Rib: "There is a legend that male humans have one rib fewer than female humans. This is false, and originates from the Bible's description of the creation of Eve (from the rib of Adam." Go, theoretical examples that turn out to be true. :) )--Carl
<sigh> Japanese lit professors, often white people who haven't been to Japan and speak no Japanese. If a falsehood must be mentioned at all, it should not be given the prominence it gets when placed in the introductory paragraph.
I read the article again and you'll find that the first novel argument is mentioned under the "Literary context" heading, at the end. :
Murasaki was neither the first or the last writer of the Heian period, nor was the Genji the earliest example of a "monogatari". Rather, the Genji stands above other tales of the time much as Shakespeare's plays stand above other Elizabethan drama.
I think I wrote that a couple of months of ago when I reworked the article. Cheers Vincent 17:40, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Okay, Vincent, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 so far. If nobody agrees with you within the next day or two, I'm going to add a more clear note stating that "while many people think Genji is the world's first novel, it really isn't" or something to that effect. If we don't explicitly debunk this, people are going to put it in. Sekicho 22:03, Nov 2, 2004 (UTC)
Off topic, but for the record, my Japanese literature professor was Japanese. However, the first time I learned about Genji was in my Japanese Art class, taught by a white man-- in Japan. I can't honestly recall where I first heard Genji called the first novel, but it got stuck in my head at some point. I think this article should make an explicit attempt to dislodge it from the heads of others. How about we have the head of the article say something like, "Though Genji is sometimes called the first novel, this claim is not generally accepted (see "Literary context" for more)." and then a link to the part of the entry where the first novel claim is debunked.--Carl 05:14, 3 Nov 2004 (UTC)

re: "It might not even be the most influential work of Japanese lit": For just one measure of the influence, look at the number of film adaptations: Genji monogatari (1951) aka "The Tale of Genji", Shin Genji monogatari (1961), Genji monogatari (1966) aka "The Tale of Genji" (anime), Murasaki Shikibu: Genji monogatari (1987) (anime), Sennen no koi - Hikaru Genji monogatari (2002), Desejado, O (1988) [Portuguese / French]. How many movies did I find with any connection to Sei Shōnagon's Makura Sōshi? One. Pillow Book, The (1996)

How many recent manga have been based on Genji? At least 5 [1]. The number of manga for the Pillow Book? None that I could find. But those are just modern examples. As Donald Keene put it in his Seeds in the Heart, " would not be possible to list all the other works of Japanese literature that it has inspired."

The Tale of Genji may not be the "first" anything, but like Shakespeare, Murasaki Shikibu borrowed and adapted what had been written before her time, but ended up writing something that transended them, and not only survived, but thrived for a millenium. Serious students of Japanese Literature might have other favorites (for example, Ihara Saikaku's Kōshuku Ichidai Otoku (The Life of an Amorous Man), but for the average Literature student, or even just the average person in general, The Tale of Genji may be the only Japanese literature that they know about. It is a shame that somewhere down the line someone felt that they needed to embellish the reputation of Genji by calling it the "first novel", but since this misconception is so widespread, it is best to deal with it quickly and at the top of the article. gK 05:28, 3 Nov 2004 (UTC)

This issue seems to have been settled but I want to throw in my opinion as an amateur observer. I and all non-literature majors who have heard of Genji only know about because it is widely called the first novel. From the first time I heard that claim I thought it sounded suspicious, but it has definitely become "common knowledge". I wasn't aware that there was any scholarly controversy until I read the first paragraph of this article. I think failing to mention anything will only further the ignorance, and even cause people to question Wikipedia's accuracy (gyaku kōka?). Remember that an encyclopedia is basically a place to learn more about something you have heard about, often for the purpose of getting facts straight. There is no better place to discount common misconceptions, I think. Sometimes we get so consumed with being right that they forget why these articles are here in the first place. (See also Incandescent light bulb#History of the light bulb) Ken6en 05:17, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

I definitely think there is a place for the rebuttal at the top of the article -- a number of relatively authoritative (or at least authoritative-seeming) reference works refer to Genji as the first novel, therefore we cannot simply state baldly and without qualification that Genji is not the first novel. But we shouldn't say that it *is* the first novel either since not everyone agrees with that. I think the best way is to simply state the facts -- that while it is sometimes referred to as the first novel, not everyone agrees with that description.

Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but I can't help but think that, in a discussion of the world's oldest novels, that the Satyricon (attributed to Gaius Petronius) and the Chaereas and Callirhoë (attributed to Chariton) should be mentioned as they are confirmed at least by Britannica and the Wikipedia pages, to be novels (or at least as much a novel as The Tale of Genji), and from around the 3rd century AD and 1st cenutry AD, respectively. There's no question that the Tale of Genji has been "called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be considered a classic," but, again, it seems to me that it should make some mention of, essentially, confirmed earlier novels. 28 October 2011 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:31, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

If this 11th century work is the world's first novel, then what about Kadambari, the seventh century Sanskrit novel? Hrishikes (talk) 11:42, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Greatest work of Japanese literature?[edit]

Why was my statement in the beginning edited out? The Tale of Genji *is* widely considered to be the greatest work of Japanese literature. Not universally, but it's a widely held opinion.

Because it is an opinion, hence POV. It's also a very debatable opinion, which I think is wrong, even though Genji is a personal favourite. The best selling translation of a Japanese novel is Yoshikawa's samurai epic "Musashi". The most visible writer is Natsume Soseki because his face is on the 1000 yen bill. More people today write quick personal essays following Sei Shonagon's style, while few write romantic large scale psychological novels. Japanese lit is a rich field and it's a disservice to stick a simplistic superlative label on any one work on any one author. Vincent 11:23, 3 Nov 2004 (UTC)
However, something of that nature needs to be said even if qualified as an opinion. Currently there's nothing in the article to suggest Genji's stature in Japan -- it certainly is *one* of the pieces of literature that's commonly mentioned as Japan's greatest work of literature. It occupies a major place in the popular mindset that is different from that enjoyed by other works of literature (almost every person I talk to about it feels like they should read Genji, and no other classic has had so many anime, manga, and modern novel versions of it.) Note that the original note did not say "Genji is the greatest work of Japanese literature". It said "widely considered to be the greatest work". Feel free to reword that if you wish, but acknolwedging Genji's place in the Japanese literature canon is not just classed as "POV". If you think that, then you might want to go edit out the similar statements that are found in the articles on Bach, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein, and others.
How about "It is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of Japanese literature"? I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who held the honest and reasoned opinion that Genji is not *one of* the greatest works. I think that something like this needs to be said because it's not obvious, especially to people who are not familiar with Japanese literature. Old does not necessarily mean good, and sometimes a work is considered a "classic" merely because it's the only thing that survives from a certain time period. But one of the remarkable things about the Genji is how even 1000 years later it's still held in such high opinion.
Then put under the heading "Reading the Genji today", at the beginning perhaps. It would certainly explain why we're reading the Genji 1000 years after it was written. Although, I would get rit of both "It is considered" and "the greatest". The latter is POV and the former is only pseudo-NPOV. I'd go more for something like this under "Genji today":
The Genji is still widely read in Japan and is one of the best known works of the period. Nearly all Japanese school children study the original, at least in part, and modern adaptations and reworkings are regularly published in a variety of media including film. The Genji first became popular outside Japan with Arthur Waley's translation of the 1920's and has been translated several times since.
Cheers, Vincent 07:52, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Your definition of NPOV doesn't agree with Wikipedia's, to quote from the NPOV article:
Providing an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations or references to notable individuals holding that interpretation, is appropriate. For instance, that Shakespeare is one of the greatest authors of the English language is a bit of knowledge that one should learn from an encyclopedia. Notice, determining how some artist or work has been received publicly or critically might require research; but that reception, unlike the idiosyncratic opinion of the Wikipedia article writer, is an opinion that really matters.
Seriously, how many (informed) people are there who don't believe that Genji is one of the greatest works of Japanese literature? I do think it's a good idea to qualify it with some specific quotes, for instance Yasunari Kawabata's statement in his Nobel Prize speech that "Genji in particular is the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature. Even down to our day there has not been a piece of fiction to compare with it.", or Fujiwara no Shunzei's statement that study of it was indispensable for anyone who wanted to compose poetry.
OK, OK, I admit it. I hate the word "greatest" and the person who wrote the Wikipedia definition of NPOV doesn't hate it. But still, I'm right ;) (Maybe. I think. I'm sure. I think. Perhaps. Somewhat. Definitely maybe. Obviously, if you think about it. A long time. Probably. Certainly. Almost. Unless I'm wrong, which I doubt. Most of the time, anyway.) So how about in the intro paragraph, adding ... and is one of the most important works within Japanese literature.? One of the most important is factual and refers to a fact (we can measure the Genji's impact on Jpn lit) while "considered one of the greatest" is factual but refers to an opinion (I feel it's the greatest).
Anyway, I'm taking this entry off my watchlist. I need a rest from it. Have fun. Cheers. Vincent 16:20, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I added two sections on debates of authorship and completeness, and I also revised the Uji section of the summary.

Free translation[edit]

Free is the right word in this case because a "free translation" is one that puts the emphasis on readability and understanding rather than literalness. [[User:GK|gK ¿?]] 14:24, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I don't know the convention, but if this is the case, someone should wikify the word "free" to point to the definition of "Free Translation" on Wikipedia if it's there, or Wiktionary if not.

Given that this convention does not in fact exist, and Arthur Waley's translation also "tries to be faithful to the original text" in its own way, I am removing the word "free" as it gives the misleading impression that Waley was less serious or scholarly than the next two translators. (There were certainly differences in the approaches to translation, and it would be good to tease them out using actual sources, but simply calling Waley's "free" is vague to the point of being misleading.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:35, 24 February 2012 (UTC)


Hello everyone, I have added some illustrations from the Burke albuns. Please let me know if you think some more illustrations can be added or not, or maybe we can try to look for other styles (earlier period and closer to Murasaki Shikibu's time). askewmind 20:24, Feb 17, 2005 (UTC)

I like your added illustrations. I changed the caption format though. For additional illustration it would be nice to link to a wikisource page of all the illustrations we can muster. I think this is worth the time and server space. --Chinasaur 22:48, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Well, there are several works containing illustrations based on The Tale of Genji, I just happen to have the print of one from the 17th century known as the Burke Album. I could scan all the images (which is going to take some time). Askewmind 23:35, Feb 17, 2005 (UTC)

I have access to a few interesting sets of illustrations as well, but like you not a lot of free time at the moment. Might it be good enough to use a digital camera? That would save time; I'll give it a try. I didn't mean for you to go it alone though. It was more a suggestion to the community behind this article that a wikisource entry with illustrations from this would be a good project. We could coordinate with japanese WP too I'm sure. --Chinasaur 00:43, 18 Feb 2005 (UTC)
That would be fantastic! I'm new to wikipedia (only a few weeks old but I'm starting to get well into it). I dont have a prob with scanning the 52 images from the Burke Album but like I said a) it could take me a few weeks and b) not sure about the public domain status. Also... how does wikisource work? Askewmind 21:20, Feb 20, 2005 (UTC)


Someone questioned in the history whether Ivan Morris' book was influental on Japanese scholarship. No, it was influental on the Western understanding of the time period -- it was essentially the first book that provided a real look at that time period of Japan's history and culture, and it remained so for a long time. It's still considered a classic work of English language Japanese history.

how about a separate chapter summary page?[edit]

Hi, I'm currently reading The Tale of Genji, and it occurred to me that a separate chapter summary page would be a good idea. I'd do it myself, but I've never read the book before, and I'm only up to chapter 8 right now in the Royall Tyler translation.

What are your thoughts on this? Would it be better to make separate pages for each chapter, or make one long page with sections? I personally think that separate pages would be better, from the standpoint of trying to limit the size of each article.

I would be glad to contribute towards this, but it'll just take time. I find that reading Genji takes more effort than the average novel. --Tachikoma 21:38, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

I think this is an excellent idea. My plan was always to either start a Wikiproject on the Tale of Genji, however that work would take years and I don't know if there are enough who would be willing to do it. I read the Seidensticker version, so I am curious how the Tyler version differs. I would like a chapter summary, don't have much time at the moment, but this would be a great idea. Gryffindor 17:33, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
I'm really wishing right now that I had taken notes when I had first started to read The Tale of Genji. That would have made both reading and writing about it that much easier.
I bought the Seidensticker version too, so that I could compare and clarify points of confusion. In brief, the Seidensticker version seems more straightforward, while the Tyler version is more indirect. Depending on the passage, the Tyler version might be more nuanced or simply just more verbose. The Tyler version uses very few names in the main text; however, each chapter has a character list that mentions their titles (e.g. His Excellency), their functions (e.g. gentlewoman to Fujitsubo), and their traditional nickname (e.g. Aoi). Some of the extensive footnotes also clarify the characters' names. --Tachikoma 19:07, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
I've done some preliminary work on a chapter summary in my sandbox. I don't know whether to "go live" and just start the actual chapter summary page, or leave it in my sandbox for further work.
One problem is that working on the chapter summaries takes away time from actually reading the book, and vice versa.
Let me know what you think. --Tachikoma 21:02, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean, I was looking the other day for my old class-notes, of course I can't find them which means I would have to go again chapter through chapter. saiyaku. But your sandbox looks good, I would tweak a bit more with style etc. but I can help you with that one if you want. I'm also thinking about setting up a table to show how the character's names are different in the Japanese original, Seidensticker version, etc.... for example it's either Nyōsan or Onna San no Miya (capitalised can change) or Third Princess... very confusing to those who might not be familiar, so we should work on that as well. I don't have much time for this project here unfortunately, but I'll keep an eye open and try to come back to it later. Gryffindor 18:34, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
The stuff in my sandbox is merely an attempt to get something down in text, nothing like a finished piece.
I'm getting to think that the each chapter will eventually have to have its own page, because I was planning to have an introductory section about the chapter title, then the chapter summary, then a character list, and maybe something about the relationship with other chapters. For example, Asagao is introduced pretty early on, and then she isn't mentioned for a while, and then she pops back up.
I like your idea about a table (a concordance?) that shows the differences in names.
As I said before, I'm trying to spend more time reading the book than thinking about the chapter summary project. --Tachikoma 14:16, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
Take your time, no rush. I think as well each chapter will have to be separate, on top of that each character could have their own article, I once wrote the Suetsumuhana, some stuff obviously still missing. Maybe for each chapter there can be a "Genji" template at the bottom or on the side, sort of like a "ring" system where one can click and jump to each chapter. We could use some nice Heian-jidai graphic or image in small size to add to that template. Gryffindor 15:19, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
That's seven colons now. I imagine that you're talking about a chapter box much like the United States National Parks box that appears at the bottom of (for example) Yosemite National Park. I don't yet know how to make anything like that. --Tachikoma 19:53, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
Exactly, something along those lines. Well I think we should focus on the chapters first, then worry about templates and stuff later. Gryffindor 20:20, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Genji and Novels WikiProject[edit]

I've added the Novels WikiProject template to this talk page in an attempt to draw interest in expanding this article. At the same time, I don't believe that the format proposed by that WikiProject quite fits the Tale of Genji, because the work doesn't revolve around a simple A->B->C plot progression.

I'm slowly working on a chapter summary page, currently in my sandbox.

While an infobox as proposed by the Novels WP would be useful, I don't want to be the one to add it and thereby disrupt the current look of the page through my inexperience with wiki software. --Tachikoma 15:54, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

[citation needed][edit]

Please don't be upset that I've tagged a lot of things in the article as needing a citation - I was really impressed by the article, but if we want to get it to Good Article, (which is the least it deserves) then we do need inline citations. I'm not a Genji buff, so I'll have to rely on all of youse to help find appropriate citations. Thanks :) - Malkinann 11:13, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

It's a good thought but you may have gone overboard on the citation placeholders. I don't think inline citations on that magnitude are necessary for a good article. There are several different types of referencing that Wikipedia accepts. I do agree that the references section is lacking. -Mizi 19:54, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Maybe so, but each of those points was something that I read, and wanted to know more about. They're all things that a person could be curious about. Even if we just cited the major translations, then that'd be something. - Malkinann 07:23, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
I have to agree with Mizi. More references are certainly needed for the article, but the current number of citation placeholders is quite excessive. The point can be made without going that far - the article looks kind of ridiculous at the moment, and it doesn't deserve that. That's not a productive strategy for improving the article. Gorilla Jones 17:10, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

I've replaced the fact tags with a single not verified tag at the top of the page, and cited the differing manga translations of the Genji. Hope this is more to everyone's satisfaction. -Malkinann 23:30, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

This page [2] might be handy for source-mining. Gorilla Jones 07:06, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

I'm a little bit concerned because I don't think my source for the historical copies section is entirely appropriate. The webpage is reliable but the oldest surviving copy is only mentioned as an aside in a news blurb about a newer manuscript. I have looked on the internet for a better source but I can't seem to find anything at all. I'd appreciate some help. - Mizi 19:50, 17 November 2006 (UTC)


As for the structure, is there any good reason not to mention the two series theory proposed by 武田宗俊 (Munetoshi Takeda?), based on statistical analysis? His theory is very known in Japan and widely accepted by the academics in this field[3], so I suppose you have a good reference to in English. --Aphaia 10:41, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Tag section for POV because of strongly judgmental statements[edit]

The two paragraphs about Hikaru Genji’s exploits with women, describing how he “raped” them and discussing how women in medieval Japan were helpless against male dominance prevents several problems, aside from the absence of anything to balance its judgmental and POV nature of applying 19–20th-century moral ideas to 11th century Japan (and attitude usually construed as cultural imperialism):

  1. First, it is not even clear from the original Japanese text that Genji entered the woman’s room without her permission.
  2. Further, since the norm in that period of Japan’s history among the aristocracy (at least) was for relationships to be initiated and carried on in this way, and relationships were often not monogamous, there is little reason assume that this was a rape.
  3. Genji’s “power” that motivated the women to acquiesce was not necessarily physical strength—given the context of (again) 11th century Japanese aristocracy, it was probably something else, like physical attractiveness. The whole point of the Hikaru Genji’s name was that he was supposed to have been extremely attractive and desirable, not only for his physical characteristics but also for his empathy towards women.
  4. Mary Arnold’s statement about women in medieval Japan in problematic for three major reasons:
    • The Tale of Genji takes place in the 11th century or earlier; that is not “medieval Japan”—she’s off by two or three hundred years at the least.
    • It is debatable whether Genji’s actions typify the impunity of men committing rape at that time, because it is unlikely that his actions were contemporarily perceived of as rape, even if they were by today’s definition.
    • In fact, women’s social position in the Heian period and even thereafter, into Japan’s medieval period, was not as weak as Arnold seems to think. Though it differed by region and class, in general women owned, inherited, and could pass on property separately from their husbands, for example, and they could initiate divorce and take their property with them when they left. The shift towards the downtrodden image people entertain today did not start until much later in Japanese history, and it started with the warrior class and in some aspects did not necessarily extend to the merchant and farming classes until as recently as the 19th century when warrior-class values were imposed directly on the whole population, in the process of post-Edo nation-building, as the “essence” of Japaneseness.

These weaknesses need to be balanced or removed. They could even be seen as off-topic for the article, given that they seem more designed to present the Japanese in an unfavorable light with respect to women rather than tell us anything about The Tale of Genji. Even assuming that these statements do tell us something about the article’s subject, they should be presented in a separate section—one on the significance and implications of the work—rather than in a section describing or summarizing the narrative. Best regards, Jim_Lockhart 07:41, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Honestly, at least for Utsusemi and Murasaki-no-ue, he raped them and so described. According to the text, both women felt uncomfortable, insulted and thought their will was ignored. But I don't think it cannot be summarized or generalized as "women's weakness". In the cultural context, Utsusemi is not a noble and Genji had no reason to treat her as the equal to her. On the contrary, if I recall correctly, he said to Utsusemi "I am the person any of whose desires are permissible". The similar can be said to Murasaki-no-ue. While she is in a loyal lineage, her social status is very weak and not different from the other lower women with whom Genji had love affairs. It should be summarized "lower-ranked people's weakness" rather than "women's weakness", I suppose. --Aphaia 10:43, 19 August 2007 (UTC)

This page—and much less so the article—is not the place to be editorializing about what may or may not have been, but rather a place for discussing and reaching consensus on how the article should be written. For that to happen, understanding Wikipedia’s objectives and policies is prerequisite; I’d like to suggest that the two of you check out WP:ATT and work from there to familiarize yourselves with concepts such as WP:MPOV as they are used on Wikipedia: The issue here should not be how things really were in Heian Japan, but what scholars of the era/document writing in secondary sources think, and how to present all of their thinking fairly—that means including opposing views without prejudice or bias to one or the other—in the article.

Arnold is not an expert on Japan, Japanese literature, or Genji Monogatari, and it appears that an earlier editor inserted her views to push a POV that is basically irrelevant to the article (if the article were on women’s issues in ancient Japan, I’d have nothing to object to), taking them out of their original context. Best regards, Jim_Lockhart 11:56, 12 September 2007 (UTC)


"Mary Arnold points out that, '...The customs of the time expected women to be submissive to men, even to the point of rape. Men had no fear that they would be punished for rape, as evidenced in Genji's attitude.'"

Okay, aside from the obvious point that Genji was written, by a woman, as an entertainment rather than a sociological description, let's put this statement to the test. We know from her diary that Murasaki Shikibu was a lady in waiting on the Empress. And we know that both Murasaki and the Empress were women. Now suppose a palace guard, low ranking, but still a man, had raped Murasaki and the Empress. Now, according to Arnold's statement, both Murasaki and the Empress would have submitted to this. And the guard wouldn't have had any fear of punishment. Does anyone believe this? This statement is bilge, and should be removed. I'll do it myself unless someone has a convincing reason not to. Shirokuma1 05:08, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Shirokuma1, I don't know Arnold and wonder who did such a generalization. In the court and noble's houses, noble men had no fear that they would be punished for rape, it was included their "noblehood". There is another Japanese researcher, whose name I don't recall for now, who pointed out rapes in Genji. Other major rape in the story made by Niounomiya, a grandson of Genji and prince. Genji is based on their socially acceped wisdom "nobles are allowed to do anything - even rapes"; as long as we limit the topic for our protagonists, I think Mary Arnord rightly points out that element. It doesn't mean it is the message of this work, though. --Aphaia 09:26, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Aphaia, the idea stated clearly in Arnold's quote is that Heian era men could do whatever they wanted with women without fear. This gives a really distorted view of Heian Japan to any reader of this article. You have amended Arnold's nonsensical statement by saying it applies only to "noblemen." That's an improvement, but I still don't buy it. Suppose Genji raped the Empress. Don't you think the Tenno would have done something? How about if someone raped one of Genji's wives, would Genji not have taken some action? I think action would have been taken, which is why noblemen didn't rape the Empress or the wives of Genji. They feared, at the very least, social sanctions. I'm sure rape happened in Heiankyo, but similar things have been known to happen in modern times at the Kennedy compound and in the hotel suites of NBA stars. That doesn't mean the society accepts it, or that all NBA stars think they can do it and get away with it. Shirokuma1 11:28, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

You missed the point.I didn't think you would miss the point, so for readers like you, my words should be refined "allowed to do anything toward the lesser people in dignity". As for the cases you mentiond, the Empress (Fujitsubo) was 1) in the higher rank and 2) his mother-in-law, so it was not acceptable. "anything is allowed" is only applied when they were going to the lesser people. Not to the higher, or even to the equal. Same can be said to the relation between Onna-sannomiya and Kashiwagi: then Genji was ranked as quasi-ex-Emperor-in-the-cloister, so he had no reason to allow the lesser ranked officer to have an affair with his wife.
Also as self-conscious of Genji, I would point out Genji was not described to feel guilty for his relation to the Empress & mother-in-law. It could suggest Murasaki shikibu portrated her hero not feeling guilty. It accords his statement to Utsusemi in Hahakigi which I quoted on the above. --Aphaia 11:01, 12 September 2007 (UTC)
I hope you guys will keep this civil... <g> Jim_Lockhart 11:56, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Aphaia, the last point you make, about Genji not feeling guilt over his affair with his stepmother (not mother-in-law) seems extraneous to this discussion, because it was a consensual affair, as i recall, and not rape. And Genji knew it was something to be concealed--shame vs. guilt I suppose. Like in the "Yugao" chapter he wears a mask when visiting the girl--these noblemen maybe didn't feel guilt over what they were doing, but they recognized society would sanction them over inappropraite behavior.

Anyway your formulation, noblemen were "allowed to do anything toward lesser people in dignity" is better than Arnold's unqualified statement that "the customs of the time expected women to be submissive to men, even to the point of rape." How about deleting Arnold's statement and replacing it with your own formulation? Shirokuma1 11:03, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Here’s why not: It would be original research, which is not allowed on Wikipedia. Arnold’s supposition (quoted) is just plain wrong, because that's not what the customs of the period required of women. Wikipedia has conventions for dealing with these problems; I suggest the two of you observe them if you’re going to deal with this. You will have to do some research and find either a refutation of Arnold’s claim (good luck) and balance it with that refutation, or remove her claim because (1) it taken out of context here, since the full context in which she made the statement was not about Genji Monogatari but another subject; and (2) no other research can be found to substantiate her claim. This will require you to really hit the books and do your homework; if you’re not willing to or cannot do that (I’m willing but don’t have the time), then perhaps you shouldn’t fiddle with it. Best regards, Jim_Lockhart 13:28, 13 September 2007 (UTC)
Shirokuma1, no ... at least now. I think I read something like I stated in books (not in papers perhaps, but it could be). Regretfully I cannot cite the source exactly. So it looks like original research, and it isn't welcome nowadays, isn't it? I admit Arnold simplified the issue too much, so it is okay with me to have it gone per se, but I would be more than happy to see mention to feminism criticism standpoints.--Aphaia 07:18, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

Okay, Arnold's comment is gone, for reasons cited in the above posting. Shirokuma1 12:01, 14 September 2007 (UTC)]]


I changed a few names on the name list: "Prince Niou Genji" -> Prince Niou ("Prince Niou Genji" is an impossibility; "Genji" specifically indicates a person who was removed from the imperial succession and made a commoner, which does not apply to Niou.) "Kaoru Genji" -> Kaoru (As above -- Kaoru was never in the imperial line, so it would be impossible for him to be a Genji.)



One of the frequent arguments made against the multiple authorship idea is that the Genji is a work of such genius that someone of equal or greater genius taking over after Murasaki is implausible.

Should probably be changed, for obvious reasons. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:37, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

It needs a source; I don't think the content should be completely expunged from the article because it *is* an argument made in favor of single authorship. But without a source it looks like POV. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:53, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Medieval readership[edit]

Why does this article have no mention to medieval readership in Japan? (In japan alone, since there was no translation into any language). Sources say it had a enthusiastic readership both in girls and high literate people (I forgot the name, but a some critic - Fujiwara Shunzei? - said any waka creator should read Genji or like that). And we must not miss mention and revival by Motoori Norinaga in the Edo period. On the other hand, in counterpart of those enthusiasm, there was also accusation againt its "immorality" and "eroticism". It was even said Murasaki shikibu had fallen into the Hell due to her writing. I think it should be mention as a part of Genji reception, but the current structure seems to lack interest to this aspect. Is there any consensus about this topic? --Aphaia (talk) 09:09, 24 September 2008 (UTC)


I am more than a little confused about what happened to my entry on "Utsusemi." I have started working on Genji characters some time ago and everything seemed to go just fine, when, without any warning, the link to my Utsusemi entry was redirected to the main Tale of Genji page. I put quite some work in that entry and, to be honest, it frustrates me. The content of that entry was completely verifiable, it had several references (I was planning on adding more), so I do not see what objections could have been brought against it. If anyone has an explanation, I would truly appreciate some feedback. Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Oticu (talkcontribs)

First of all, please sign your comments.
Secondly, I suggest checking the article history for Utsusemi. There you may find that User:CultureDrone changed it to a redirect for his specified reason. If you disagree, then please take it up with him. No Wikipedia work is ever really gone so please relax. You may click on any of this past versions in the history and revert to that previous version upon coming to a consensus about the topic. Regards, Bendono (talk) 05:17, 31 October 2008 (UTC)

Genji character list[edit]

I am currently working on the list of Genji characters and would very much benefit from some suggestions/ advice. The problem I am having is with their sheer number. Since they are so many and since each needs a comprehensive entry, the character list will end up being quite overwhelming. I have tried making short descriptions and creating new pages from major characters, but that proved very cumbersome. For one thing, I didn’t have enough material to justify the creation of new wiki entries. Therefore, I got back to the main character list and continued from there, hoping I’ll figure out something by the time I reach chapter 54 (I’m entering characters chronologically using Tyler's edition). How would a separate page entitled Genji Character List sound like (with a link from the main Tale of Genji page)? I’d be happy to hear other suggestions (and no, cutting down the number of characters is not a solution, since I’ve noticed that most students tend to remember key names, but have troubles once they get to minor figures, so there's where they need most help).

--Oticu (talk) 06:16, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

It could be split into a List of characters from The Tale of Genji? --Malkinann (talk) 20:53, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

Role of women[edit]

  • If one compares male attitudes towards women in The Tale of Genji and The Heptameron, one will see little difference regarding their views of female inferiority and subjectivity to males. The primary difference exists in how the females themselves comprehend their roles in society. Women in tenth-century Japan are taught to be completely docile and submissive to the male figures in their lives. The only resistance they exert is of the passive kind, i.e. with admonitions, feigning illness, and concealing themselves as much as possible from men. In contrast, the women of sixteenth-century France are much more assertive in defending themselves from physical abuses and ill treatment from men. [4]

I don't get much of this from the WP article. Didn't Genji go around doing whatever he wanted to women, and isn't that the most striking characteristic of the book? Why are we spending so much time saying it's a classic and doesn't have a plot? --Uncle Ed (talk) 18:50, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Genji didn't just "go around doing whatever he wanted to women" as there were consequences to his actions and expectations in regards to his behavior. And it's not necessarily one of the most striking charactertics of the book - the actual stories of his affairs don't take up even half of the text. Also, this article isn't about women's place in society at that time. You could add a section on historical context, but that seems like more of an undertaking than what would be appropriate for an article about Genji. If you do, however, create a section on the role of women, I strongly recommend citing scholarly journals strictly dealing with The Tale of Genji and its time (not 16th century France) instead of using the source you cited here. Rabbit36 (talk) 03:54, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
I came to this article as a reader of Genji looking for (references to scholarly) discussion of the role of women in the book. For instance, do scholars feel that the book is "accurate" in this regard (for nobles at that time)? I myself was stricken by how Genji (and implicitly the author) values women for (among other things) their intellectual and artistic accomplishments, but still does not feel he has to keep his word to them ("I promise I'll behave myself", followed by what may be rape, in chapter 6, for instance). So I'd welcome a section like this. Homunq (talk) 17:36, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Genji chapter symbols[edit]

Genji chapter symbols groupings of 5 elements.svg

Made an image... AnonMoos (talk) 07:52, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

Reproduction , some questions[edit]

How were the earliest copies reproduced? The article has an image of a manuscript , but were all copies originally made by scribes or did the Japanese have some form or early printing available? When were the first printed copies made in Japan? Lumos3 (talk) 12:16, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

handscroll of Genji
The earliest versions were made by calligraphers employed by the royal court. Tons of research needed here and I'm not quite sure when the first printed copies were made or even whether they still exist. There are very early scrolls - emakimono that had painted illustrations matched to the text. The image here is from the 13th century. I believe these were made of silk - but not entirely certain. Truthkeeper (talk) 00:54, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

Murasaki Shikibu's name in the reference list[edit]

Does anyone know why the references for this article mention "Shikibu, Murasaki" and Waley as the authors? Let alone that the article probably should use one of the more up-to-date/scholarly/accurate translations of the Tale, we should be citing one or the other as the author. (There is a case to be made for the translator-as-author if the article is referring specifically to an aspect of or note in his translation, but if so "Lady Murasaki" should probably be in the book title, not listed as a "co-author".)

And in either case, Shikibu is not her last name. We should change this.

elvenscout742 (talk) 05:59, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

Beginning Sentences in "Reception and legacy"[edit]

I am referring to the first two sentences in that section regarding Jorge Luis Borges. Is the rest of the sentence and the next one after the colon supposed to be a quote? Because as I was reading it, I was confused as it wasn't formatted as a quote since it says "I dare to recommend this book to those who read me" and since it is not properly formatted as a quote, it is hard to tell where the quote is supposed to end. Additionally, there is no citation provided for me to check whether it is a quote or not so I can format it correctly. I am tempted to remove it until a inline citation can be provided as well as an indication of how far the quote is to extend. SassyLilNugget (talk) 12:00, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Removal of external links[edit]

I have removed two ELs from this page. One was an IMDb page for one of the many film/TV adaptations of this work, with no indication why it is relevant. The other was in violation of WP:ELNO in that it did not provide a unique resource beyond what this article would provide if it was of FA-quality. It contained an online reproduction of a single, two-page, copyrighted table (with permission of the creator, of course). I will post the link here, so that we can use it to create our own (not just copy the image) and include it in the article. We can cite the web-page as the source. The link is here. elvenscout742 (talk) 11:14, 14 November 2012 (UTC)

I removed another one that appeared to be broken, but it may be that it's just blocked on my computer or in my region or something (although I live in Japan, and my office computer is used for preparing English lessons for museum tour guides, so...). Judging by the description, however, it was only peripherally relevant to this article to begin with. If it seems appropriate to anyone who can actually access the page, the link may be re-added to the articles on Heian period or Japanese clothing, for instance. The link is here. elvenscout742 (talk) 04:25, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
I removed the EL
These 6 (relatively low-quality) images are all photographs of 2-D prints that are in the public domain. I am not sure about the WP copyright policy on recent (potentially copyrighted) photographs of 2-D images that themselves are public-domain, but fair-use/public-domain images definitely exist or could be produced. Therefore, if it were really necessary, we could incorporate them into, say, an Illustrations section of this article. I doubt they are really relevant, though, since the much more notable and accurate/relevant Genji Monogatari Emaki is already heavily featured in the article. elvenscout742 (talk) 04:55, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

I don't see why these were removed. With the exception of the third dead link (on clothing), they all seem relevant and appropriate. One can make a chart like the one depicted in a link, but until some editor does make a chart, it seems relevant and acceptable to leave the link in the article. Even the "peripherally relevant" clothing website seems appropriate; if I was reading the article for the first time, I would be quite interested in how they dressed (which I was). If an active link or website can be found, it should be included. About the movie link, if there were a dozen links, I would say cull it, but this is one link. There should be mention if it was the first, best, or best known movie on the subject, but just the two points that it is (1) a movie depicting a topic, and (2) the only one linked in the External Links section, makes it an appropriate & relevant addition. I am in favor of restoring all active links. Boneyard90 (talk) 10:47, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

ELs should generally be kept to a minimum in Wikipedia articles. Please see WP:ELNO (particularly point 1) for my justification for most of these removals. They also all fail WP:ELYES for the reasons stated above. I have preserved the links here (on the Talk page) so that relevant material can be incorporated in the article, but ELs in the External links section should generally be restricted to materials dealing specifically with the subject of this article and containing too much/detailed information to incorporate directly into the article itself. elvenscout742 (talk) 16:39, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
(The chart and clothing are 2 things that could very easily be added to the article itself, and so they were among the first links I removed. elvenscout742 (talk) 16:41, 15 November 2012 (UTC))
I understand your wikipedia rationale, I disagree with the subjective severity. Also, until someone has re-created the chart, or uploaded and included photos of period dress, I think both links are relevant, appropriate, and lend additional necessary information to the article. Boneyard90 (talk) 20:27, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
Wait, I missed your comment on the movie: the movie is one of a large number of film and television adaptations of Genji. If it is notable, a separate article on the film itself should be created, with a link to said Wikipedia article added to the Film and operatic adaptations section of this article. A link to a single IMDb page just seems inappropriate for an article on a 1,000-old-book. I can understand your argument that it is the first/best/best-known of the adaptations, but WP:ELYES, WP:ELMAYBE and WP:ELNO all seem to be pretty clear on this issue.
Also, I apologize for my harshness in deleting these links. I was recently directed to this article by a single-purpose account who has been adding promotional links to unreliable/non-learned websites on various articles on Japanese poetry and painting, and when I tried to explain to said user politely that ELs should be kept to a minimum, and the standard was that if the article were of featured-article quality and the link did not then provide a unique resource, it should not be added in the first place, he made an other stuff exists-style argument that Haiku and The Tale of Genji also have far too many links. I then had little choice but to move over here and attempt to clean up the links.
(By the way, is there any way I can request comment specifically from WikiProject:Japan members on that user's behaviour? I understand that such would probably violate WP:GANG or some such, but it has been very difficult to convince the general Wikipedia community when my arguments by necessity are rooted in the study of Japanese literature...)
elvenscout742 (talk) 01:10, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
If you are in a discussion/debate on one page that might be of interest to fellow project members, you can post a request on the project Talk page, as for example, "There is a debate on [WP:Textiles] concerning stitch patterns of early Edo-period kimono (or something), and interested editors are invited to share their ideas." You might get help, you might not. As a courtesy, you can post at the discussion that you have "invited members of interested projects". For one particular obstinate member, you can post a message on an admin's talk page. He or she might have insight on the editor's behavior, or know the best course of action. Good luck. Boneyard90 (talk) 07:29, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

Kanji/Chinese characters in original title. Or hiragana.[edit]

Since Genji monogatari was written mainly in kana, surely the title was in kana as well. Should the original title really be displayed in kanji? Japanese Wikipedia does have the entry under modern Japanese spelling, i.e. in kanji 『源氏物語』but also adds(げんじものがたり)i.e. ge-n-ji-mo-no-go-ta-ri in hiragana. At least we should also add the hiragana. --Stighammar (talk) 08:50, 7 June 2014 (UTC)

It is a ridiculous anachronism to call this a "novel"[edit]

It is sui generis. It is fiction, but it is not a novel. Historical fiction. A blend of genres. But the whole thing depends on how one defines a 'novel', and by any historical standards, it is a terrible anachronism (and an oversimplification) to use the term 'novel' to categorize or describe this work. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:10, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

It's clearly cited that this has been considered a novel by many sources. It is a simplification to use the term 'novel' for anything, but that's a good thing; simplification into large groups is how humans understand the world. As Ancient Greek novel makes it clear, the word "novel" is frequently extended to works far older than The Tale of Genji. The first "x" can always be argued to be an anachronism, but there must be a first "x".--Prosfilaes (talk) 00:26, 20 March 2017 (UTC)

The Tale of Murasaki?[edit]

I read a great novel a few years ago, can't remember by whom. Called the Tale of Murasaki, and set around the life of the author of Genji. Just popping it here in case an editor would like to source and include it. I don't have time now. (talk) 00:02, 13 January 2016 (UTC)

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Removed Text[edit]

I removed the following section:

"The tale of Genji" writing in the 1001-1008 years, "monogatari" is a Japanese literary genre, it was the world's first novel, is a thirty million Japanese family immortal national literature. To the Heian Dynasty's heyday as the background, through the protagonist of Genji's life experience and love story, describing the political corruption of the society at that time and promiscuous life. The upper nobility mutual strife and struggle for power is a main theme throughout the book, but Genji love and marriage, it reveals the tragic fate of women under polygamy. In the aristocratic society, Women becomes political transaction tools and noble man's plaything<:ref> (2017). The tale of Genji (Douban). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Mar. 2017].<:/ref>

It's virtually unreadable in its present form. I would try and clean it up but I can't make enough sense of it. (talk) 04:58, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

  • I'll try it: << The Tale of Genji was written between 1001 and 1008. It is an example of the Japanese literary genre of monogatari, and is the world's first novel and a classic of Japanese literature [sorry, I don't know that the 30 Million is about]. Set against the backdrop of the height of the Heian Dynasty, the novel uses the story of Genji's life and loves to describe the political corruption and promiscuity of the time. The novel's main theme is the strife and struggles for power among the upper nobility, but through the stories of Genji's love and marriages, it also reveals the tragic fate for women under polygamy, as women in this aristocratic society become playthings for the noble men and tools for political transactions. >> How's that? Aristophanes68 (talk) 20:02, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
    • update: I checked the website cited, which is in Japanese. After having Chrome translate the page, I saw this: <<"Tale of Genji" in the book between 1001 - 1008 years, is the world's first long realistic novel, for the 30 million Japanese family immortal national literature, is the world's recognized Asian literature ten ideal books, is also the world literature An indispensable treasure in the treasures. This book to the Japanese peace dynasty heyday as the background, through the protagonist of the life experience and love story, describes the social corruption and immoral life at the time between the upper aristocracy and the struggle between the struggle is a line throughout the book, and the source of the Of the love of marriage, it reveals the polygamous women under the tragic fate. In the aristocratic society, male and female marriage is often a means of struggle with the political, women have become a tool for political transactions and aristocratic men in the hands of plaything.>> So, the source isn't usable either, unless we get a good translator. Best to leave the passage off the page. Aristophanes68 (talk) 20:06, 19 March 2017 (UTC)