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Murasaki Shikibu’s Inkstone


Traditionally dated to the Heian period (794–1185)

Not on view

According to legend, Murasaki Shikibu used this very inkstone (suzuri) to create the ink with which she brushed The Tale of Genji. Quite large and made from Chinese purple agate, it is embellished with two incised roundels representing the sun and the moon. Above these are two four-lobed wells for the ink, featuring a carved bull on the right and a carp on the left. The edges and sides of the inkstone are decorated with an engraved foliage design.

By the late Edo period, the inkstone had taken on iconic status and was even depicted in the opening frontispiece of the woodblock-printed A Fraudulent Murasaki’s Rustic Genji illustrated by Utagawa Kunisada.

Murasaki Shikibu’s Inkstone, Unidentified, Purple agate, Japan

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