Lady Aoi (葵の上)

Lady Aoi is a fictional character appearing in "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu. She is Hikaru Genji's first lawful wife. She has a single son with Genji (Yugiri). This name, given by readers in later generations for convenience, comes from the chapter 'Aoi' (Hollyhock) where she is presented as a leading character.

Background

Her father was the Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) during the reign of Emperor Kiritsubo and her mother was Omiya, the younger sister of Emperor Kiritsubo. She has a brother named To no Chujo (which of the two is the elder is unclear in the story). She is a cousin of Hikaru Genji.

Biography

She was, at first, intended to be the wife of the Crown Prince (Later Emperor Suzaku), but in accordance with the Sadaijin's plans, she became the lawful wife of Genji after he completed his initiation ceremonies into adulthood ('Kiritsubo' (The Paulownia Court)). However, Genji, who had been secretly in love with Fujitsubo, felt unsatisfied with Aoi despite the fact that she had been brought up with the greatest care in a good family as a candidate for empress. Lady Aoi also did not lower her guard to her husband, who was four years her junior and often smitten with other ladies, and maintained a very distant attitude toward him. The cold relations between her and Genji are symbolized by the fact that no waka poems composed by Lady Aoi appear in the story (from 'Hahakigi' (The Broom Tree) through 'Hana no En' (The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms)).

Ten years later (when Genji was twenty-two years old), she finally became pregnant, and the people around them grew excited with delight. Genji found that Lady Aoi looked helpless due to painful morning sickness, and felt a love for her as he rarely had before. At this time, it was the season of the Kamo festival (the Aoi (Hollyhock) Festival, in the fourth month (old calendar)), and taking the advice of the people around her she went to watch the purification ceremony performed by the Saiin (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Kamo-jinja Shrines). However, her retainers unexpectedly got into a fight with the retainers of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, Genji's lover, broke Rokujo no Miyasudokoro's gissha (ox-drawn carriage) and disgraced her. From this point on, Lady Aoi was afflicted by a vengeful spirit and became sick and bedridden. When Genji was paying a visit to Aoi in bed, the spirit of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, who had been possessing her, appeared before his very eyes. It was around the middle of the eighth month (old calendar) that she gave birth to Yugiri after a difficult delivery. After a brief period where she and Genji patched up their relationship, she suddenly started to suffer and died all too soon on the night of the autumn conference on promotions and appointments. Her cremation and funeral was conducted in the latter part of the Eighth Month (old lunar calendar). Deeply regretting his having been cold to her, Genji confined himself to the Sadaijin's residence and went into mourning ('Aoi' (Hollyhock)).