Lady Murasaki

January 2, 2017

We are very honored to have one of Mas’ suiseki, Lady Murasaki, included in i-j4vg3gw-sthe permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California.  This piece was previously part of their special exhibit,  Unearthed: Found + Made (during the 1st half of 2016).

When viewed from the conventional front (see the photo to the right), the stone is a classic suiseki, or landscape scene stone.  The word “murasaki” means purple, and the stone evokes the image of a graceful mountain, perhaps in the purple light of dusk. (Unfortunately, the photo does not show the true color which is a dark purple rather than black).

However, when viewed from the side the stone reveals the image of a lady with the dress and hairstyle of ancient Japan.  It particularly reminds us of the images of Murasaki Shikibu which have been painted over the centuries.


Tosa Mitsuoki illustration of Lady Murasaki writing.  c. late 17th C.

The Lady Murasaki (c. 973 – c. 1014) was the great writer of the Heian period in Japan (794-1185), and is one of the most important figures in Japanese and world literature.  She is known for her diary of court life, a book of poems, and most particularly for The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), which is often referred to as the world’s first novel.

In addition to being a continuing subject of study by scholars of literature, Genji is read and enjoyed by people around the world in modern translations.

The Tale of Genji was something of a best-seller in its time.  New installments were eagerly awaited and even read to the emperor, with copies distributed throughout Japan. Within a century it had been recognized as a classic of Japanese literature. Lady Murasaki is one of the towering figures in human history, and she and her Tale of Genji have inspired readers, scholars, and artists worldwide for centuries.

This suiseki is our tribute to her, and we could not be more proud than to have it in the Oakland Museum.

%d bloggers like this: