I share this quote from Ivan Morris' The World of the Shining Prince for two reasons: first, I thought it was funny, and second, it irresistibly brought to mind Konzen in Saiyuki Gaiden.

The procedure for issuing Imperial Decrees provides an example of Heian bureaucracy rampant. When the Great Council of State have decided on a proposal, they submit it to the emperor, whose secretaries rewrite it as a State dcoument, drafted of course in Chinese. After the emperor has read it, he automatically approves and signifies this by writing the day of the month in his own hand (the year and the month having already been filled in by the secretaries). The draft is then sent to the Ministry of Central Affairs. The minister makes a Report of Acknowledgement to the emperor. He then examines the document and (approval again being automatic) inscribes the Chinese character for "Proclaim" under his official title. The next stop is the office of the Senior Assistant Minister, who, after the usual delays, writes the character for "Received." The same procedure is followed by the Junior Assistant Minister, except that he writes the character "Perform." Now the draft goes to the Scribes' Office, where it is copied. The document is then sent back to the Great Council of State, where the Major Counsellor makes a Report of Acknowledgement. Next the emperor sees the document; this time he writes the character "Approved" and returns it to the Great Council. Here the document is thoroughly scrutinized and, if no stylistic mistakes are found, it is sent back to the Scribes' Office for multi-copying. Each copy is signed jointly by the Prime Minister and all other officials who are concerned with the matter in hand, and then sent to the palace for the ceremony of affixing the Great Imperial Seal (Seiin no Gi). Now finally the decree can be promulgated. Since, as often as not, it is concerned with some such question as the type of head-dress that an official of the Third Rank may wear at court, we can judge the prodigious waste of time and effort involved in government procedure.

(The forms of bureaucracy were imported from China, but China, being somewhat larger, had more to occupy its bureaucrats.)

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] reading_genji.

I'm trying to finish The Tale of Genji before going to Japan, and have started posting at [livejournal.com profile] reading_genji again with two posts, one on sexual consent and one on chapter 20.

Does anyone want me to post future links here when I put up posts in that community?

I haven't given up!

Chapter 19, "A Rack of Cloud": In which Murasaki gains a foster daughter, Fujitsubo loses her life, and the emperor gains unwelcome knowledge.

Chapter 18, "The Wind in the Pines": In which the Akashi lady moves to the city.

Chapter 17, "A Picture Contest": In which there is much discussion of art.

Chapter 16, "The Gatehouse": In which the lady of the locust shell reappears.

Chapter 15, "The Wormwood Patch": In which Genji takes his sweet time getting around to rescuing the Safflower Princess.

Chapter 14, "Channel Buoys": In which Genji and Fujitsubo's son becomes emperor, and Genji's daughter is born.

Chapter 13, "Akashi": In which a monk pimps his daughter to Genji, who is a skank.

Chapter 12, "Suma": In which G=P in exile.

Chapter 11, "The Orange Blossoms": In which Genji skanks after three women in four pages.

Chapter 10, "The Sacred Tree": In which several important people leave the world and Genji pines.

A few Tale of Genji posts over on [livejournal.com profile] reading_genji:

I've posted my thoughts on chapter 6 of The Tale of Genji over at the new community [livejournal.com profile] reading_genji; read and comment there. I'm going to post there and put pointers here from now on, just to keep discussion in one place.

(Also, I posted a query about the narrator v. the author.)

I'm going to agree with the majority opinion, here:

chapter 5 )

This is a very long chapter, but Chad inadvertently gave me a summary when we were talking after I'd finished the chapter:

chapter 4 )

I overslept because I'm not feeling well, but chapter 3 is very short—can I write it up while my bagel toasts?

chapter 3 )

Primary thoughts: "Oh, are you really going to . . . yes, you are," and, it feels like we've wrapped up an arc, though I could be wrong.

And there's the toaster.

Edit: chapter 3 online; more Genji posts.

Inspired by [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija, I got Edward Seidensticker's translation of The Tale of Genji out of the library last night and read the first two chapters last night.

This may be Exhibit A in the case for my shallowness, but my verdict so far is "unintentionally hilarious."

The Tale of Genji, chapters 1 and 2 )

Okay, more seriously: characters obviously aren't going to be the thing that pulls me through this. The introduction has warned me not to expect narrative momentum or structure, either. I'll read a few more chapters at least, for the unintentional hilarity, the historical and cultural content, and some of the language; but it's a long damn book and I don't know how far I'll get. On the other hand, I haven't been reading a lot lately before bed, and this is very unlikely to keep me up reading. We'll see.

Edit: an online edition of the Seidensticker translation: chapter 1, chapter 2 (oddly their introduction is not Seidensticker's). I'm also collecting other people's comments in my memories.

May 2017

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