Tachibana no Norimitsu Fujiwara no Muneyo
Norinaga (son) Koma no Myobu (daughter)
SEI SHōNAGON (清少納言, lesser councilor of state Sei), (c.
966–1017/1025) was a Japanese author, poet and a court lady who
served the Empress Teishi (Sadako) around the year 1000 during the
* 1 Name * 2 Early life * 3 Rival * 4 Writing * 5 Later years * 6 Gallery * 7 References * 8 Bibliography * 9 External links
Sei Shōnagon's actual given name is not known. It was the custom among aristocrats in those days to call a court lady by a nickname taken from a court office belonging to her father or husband. Sei (清) derives from her father's family name "Kiyohara " (the native Japanese reading of the first character is kiyo, while the Sino-Japanese reading is sei), while Shōnagon (少納言, "lesser councilor of state") refers to a government post. Her relationship to this post is unknown, though—neither her father nor either of her two husbands held such a post. Bun\'ei Tsunoda has suggested that it may have belonged to a third husband, perhaps Fujiwara no Nobuyoshi .
Her actual name has been a topic of debate among scholars, who consider KIYOHARA NO NAGIKO (清原 諾子) a possibility.
Little is known about her life except what can be found in her writing. She was the daughter of Kiyohara no Motosuke , a scholar and well-known waka poet, who worked as a provincial official. Her grandfather Kiyohara no Fukayabu was also a waka poet. The family were middle-ranking courtiers and had financial difficulties, possibly because they were not granted a revenue-producing office.
She married Tachibana no Norimitsu, a government official at 16, and
gave birth to a son, Norinaga. In 993, at 27, when she began to serve
the Empress Teishi , consort of
Hiroaki Sato questions whether Lady Sei and Norimitsu were actually married or just close friends, "the ladies and gentlemen of the court teased them by calling him her big brother and her his little sister."
Shōnagon is also known for her rivalry with her contemporary, writer
and court lady
Murasaki Shikibu , author of
The Tale of Genji
Shōnagon became popular through her work
The Pillow Book
In The Pillow Book, Shōnagon writes about Empress Teishi, and her disappointment after her father's death when Fujiwara no Michinaga made his daughter Shōshi consort to Ichijō, and then empress, making Teishi one of two empresses at court. Because of the risk of fire, the Imperial family did not live in the Heian Palace . Empress Teishi resided in a part of Chūgushiki, the Bureau of Serving the (Middle) Empress, and moved to other residences as circumstances changed. Shōnagon writes with apparent lightheartedness about events at court, de-emphasizing or omitting harsh realities such as Teishi's death from childbirth in 1000. According to the prevalent fashion, to have written more passionately would have been considered unstylish. Her writing is considered witty, depicting Teishi's elegant court from a detailed, gossipy perspective.
Shōnagon was regarded by contemporary courtiers as having an excellent memory. Her writing includes many reminiscences of previous events at court, often including precise details such as the clothes people wore, despite being written down several years after the events took place. She was also known to be especially adept at recalling and quoting a classic poem to suit the occasion, even by the standards of a court in which knowledge of the poetry canon was considered an essential skill.
The entries in
The Pillow Book
One of her waka is included in the famous anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu as No.62.
There are no details about Shōnagon's life after the year 1017, and very few records of her after the death of the Empress Teishi/Empress Sadako in 1000. According to one tradition, she lived out her twilight years in poverty as a Buddhist nun. Another tradition has her marrying Fujiwara no Muneyo, the governor of Settsu province, after her court service ended, and having a daughter, Koma no Myobu. The Pillow Book is thought to have been finished sometime between 1001 and 1010, while Shōnagon was in retirement.
Sei Shōnagon in a later 13th century drawing *
Sei Shōnagon in a later 17th century drawing *
Sei Shōnagon, drawing by Kikuchi Yosai (1788–1878)
* ^ A B C Keene 1999 : 412. * ^ Keene 1999 : 412, citing (427, note 3) Tsunoda 1975 : 30-32. * ^ A B C Donawerth 2002 : 22–23. * ^ Sato 1995 : 55–58. * ^ A B C Sei Shōnagon (2006). The Pillow Book. Translated by Meredith McKinney. London, England: Penguin Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-140-44806-3 .
* Keene, Donald (1999) . A History of Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: Seeds in the Heart – Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century (paperback ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press . ISBN 978-0-231-11441-7 . * Donawerth, Jane (2002). Rhetorical Theory by Women Before 1900. Lanham, Maryland : Rowman & Littlefield . ISBN 978-0-7425-1716-5 . * Sato, Hiroaki (1995). Legends of the Samurai. Overlook Duckworth. ISBN 9781590207307 . * Tsunoda Bun'ei 1975. "Sei Shōnagon no Shōgai" in Makura Sōshi Kōza, Vol. 1. Tokyo: Yūseidō.
* Quotations related to Sei Shōnagon at Wikiquote *