No manuscript of the tale survives from anywhere near Murasaki Shikibu's time. The earliest known textual fragments appear in Genji monogatari emaki, an incomplete set of late-twelfth-century illustrations. By the thirteenth century the text was becoming corrupt, having been copied over and over again, and two scholars set out independently to restore it. One was Minamoto no Mitsuyuki (died 1244), whose work was completed in 1255 by his son Chikayuki (died 1277). Since Mits-u-yuki served as Governor of the province of Kawachi, his recension is known as the Kawachi-bon ("Kawachi text").

The great poet and man of letters Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) began a similar project at about the same time. Teika wrote in his diary that his copy had disappeared in the 1190s and that he had therefore begun collecting and collating others. The work was completed in 1225. Four chapters of his so-called Aobyoshi-bon ("Blue cover text") survive in his own hand, and his recension, in later copies, has been standard since the fourteenth century. All accessible modern editions are based on the Aobyoshi-bon line. This translation relies on the authoritatively annotated ones included in three superb compendiums of the Japanese classics: Shin Nihon koten zenshu (published by Shogakukan), Nihon koten shusei (Shinchosha), and Shin Nihon koten bungaku taikei (Iwanami).

There is also a group of manuscripts, called beppon ("other texts"), apart from the Kawachi-bon and Aobyoshi-bon lines. From the standpoint of the nonspecialist, especially the reader of a translation, there is no striking discrepancy between the Kawachi-bon and Aboyoshi-bon lines, but study of the beppon may yet yield insight into an earlier state of the text.


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