February 12, 2012

Most Beautiful Jealousy

This is the saddest story about jealousy described in " Tale of Genji". It was  written by a female writer, Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century. And this Japanese-style picture of the story depicts the jealousy most beautifully .
 The painting  is titled "焔(ほのお),  Flame" drawn by Uemura Shoen
It depicts Lady Rokujo who is in the extreme jealousy. How beautiful and fierce
 the apparition of jealousy is!  She is biting her hair and tries to suppress
her burning emotions  which seem to emit pale flame.
 ( image taken from google)  

Lady Rokujo is a  mistress of Prince Genji, but she is loosing his love.  She is beautiful, sophisticated, well educated, older than him and a woman of high status who is a widow of the crown prince.   Her tragedy is that she is too perfect to be his mistress.  More over she is too proud to allow her to be jealous or show him her true feelings honestly.


When Lady Rokujo gets to know the wife of Prince Genji is pregnant, she is burnt by strong jealousy. She is at the verge of  loosing sanity. Once she has been humiliated by the servants of his wife in public. She has the deep grudge against his wife. At last, her living soul steals out of  her body and transforms into a female demon. The demon starts to haunt his wife.

Lady Rokujo's soul becomes the demon. (image taken from google)
This is the Noh play.



I can not help feeling pity for her. What the hell  is Lady Rokujo going through? No one can be free from jealousy. Spider nets and wisteria flowers on her kimono tell us eloquently the depth of her sorrow and obsession of her unrequited love. Even how badly she is ashamed at the transformation, she can not do anything.
Does she want to catch his heart with the spider nets. 

Does she want to coil his heart  like wisterias do.
 Wisterias are doomed to coil other trees and grow.

Or her mind is already caught in the spider nets of jealousy and coiled by the grudge.
There is no way for her to go.


It is said in Japan if a woman is so jealous, she transforms to a  female demon with two horns,  which is called Han-nya(般若).  This is a  mask of the female demon used in Noh plays. A mask with separated hair in the middle is a female mask.
Only jealous women, but not jealous men, become the demons . Oh, it is not fair here in Japan!!

Being caught by a green-eyed monster, Othello killed his wife, didn't he??

Do Japanese men want to say to women
"If you are jealous too much, you will become a demon with horns. Be generous to my cheating." No kidding!

Strangely enough, Han-nya (般若) means the wisdom of Buddha to see the truth in Buddhism.  There are a few theories why the female demon is called Han-nya(般若).

In the 16th century, Priest Han-nya carved supreme masks of the female demon. Since then the masks of this kind have been called Han-nya.

Other theory says that to transform into the Han-nya is one path to the salvation led by the prayers of Buddha.

 In a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, a bride wears "Tuno Kakushi" which literally means "Horn Hide" - a head wear made of a rectangular white silk cloth. This is to give a bride the caution not to have jealous horns after marriage. (image taken from wikipedia).

If a Japanese woman has the invisible horns of jealousy, a man will realize the reality of his wife after marriage.

You might  like this.

Paradise of Wisteria・・・

43 comments:

  1. What an interesting post, snowwhite!
    The picture is extremely beautiful.
    I am always so sorry for the people who are jealous! Their life is unbearable and they are very hard to deal with.

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  2. Yeah, that's not fair that only jealous women turn into demons!

    By the way, she has such long hair, wow! I always wanted to have smooth black hair ^^

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  3. Here some men would like to refer to such a saying, too.

    Well, I guess being jealous is a hard path.

    Here during marriage in older times you could tell in some regions if the bride was still a virgin or not when you saw her hairdress. A wreath was standing for virgin and a bonnet for non-virgin.

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  4. This is a fascinating post, with interesting pictures. No, it's not fair. But also, what struck me, is that in England (at least, and probably other Western European countries) the sign of a cuckold (or man who has been cheated by his wife) is also horns. I don't know what the horns of a cuckold signify, except that they are a sign of inferiority and shame.

    In a way jealousy is another face of feelings of inferiority and shame. It is indeed an unbearable emotion and one which is so difficult to control.

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  5. So interesting and so very sad. A Demon seems an appropriate image for jealousy to me...it can be such an ugly emotion.

    As always, Keiko, a gem of a post.

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  6. An amazing post, thank you so much for sharing this story

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  7. Thank you for a fascinating post! I didn't know that wisteria was a symbol of jealousy, but it's such an appropriate image!

    PS: I've always thought Genji was a bit of a spoilt brat! ;)

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  8. 上村松園の絵をこのように、簡潔で分かりやすくブログで紹介された事は素晴らしいと思いました。“焔”は松園の絵の中で私が最も愛する大好きな絵です。松園の作品の中では異色とされていますけれど、私は松園の描く女性は殆どすべて好きです。松園の女性像のあまりにも純粋で、美しすぎるほどの柔和な姿と目の表情。清らかすぎて現実離れしてるようですが、やはり女性の美の究極ですよね。そして“焔”の女性が表す嫉妬と怨念の内面の気迫せまる表情。髪の毛をくわえて振り向いたポーズ。この絵の前でじ~~っと立ち止まって吸い込まれるように眺めたことを思い出します。苦悩に満ちた表情ですけど・・・・・そんな人生って・・・???
    However,I can not resist loving this painting.

    Tomoko

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  9. What a beautiful painting by Uemura Shoen. The title "flame" is so unlike the mood it depicts for me. But with your wonderful explanation I understand it now. Yes, I have always heard about the "Tsunokakushi" that Japanese brides wear. I did not get to wear it, but I was always intrigued by it...

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  10. 源氏物語には 母性、高貴、知性、可憐、頑強さを持つ様々なタイプの女性が登場しますね。それら全てはひとりの女性の中に少なからずある気質で、どうしても譲れない性質が強く現れるように私には思えます。源氏物語の六条御息所は生霊になるまで自分の気持ちに素直で情熱的ですね。ある意味登場人物としては最も魅力的で絵になる女性だと思います。嫉妬から解放された今、そこまで人を愛せる気持ちが持てることが羨ましくもあります。( ´艸`)ムププ

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  11. This is a great post which is written intriguely, snow-white. Now I understand what the patterns on her kimono, cobweb and wisteria, symbolize. In general, there’d be times when we are trapped by our own trappings. No one can be free from jealousy as you wrote but any one is responsible for one’s own feeling and is able to control the green monster with will-power. Interestingly, I hear the story of Lady Rokujyo is favored most among women. The theme of jealousy is timeless.

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  12. Great post! I really enjoyed reading it.
    By the way, it can be said the transformation shows how strongly people want to dominate one person. I can not become emotionally attatched to one person. SO this is mystery to me.

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  13. What an amazing story about Lady Rokujo and her jealousy. The painting of her is beautiful and so elegant.

    I always think that Japanese women are elegant and I find it hard to imagine them with horns. ;-)
    I recognise the demon mask, but it does seem unfair that only women turn into demons when they are jealous!
    Maybe we should all wear hats to hide our horns. ;-)

    Many blessings,
    Jo.

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  14. Very interesting! Rokujyo must have a lot of fans inspite of her insisting jealous. I read that the tanka poet, Machi Tawara, was fond of her among many beautiful women whom Genji loved. I think Rokujyo was an intelligent person and she makes the story quite interesting.

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  15. Many thanks for this very interestig post, snowwhite! "Only jealous women, but not jealous men, become the demons" I don't think it is fair, either! What intrigued me most about the story is that Princess Roku-jo becomes a vengeful spirit spawned from her hate and possesses Genji's wife, Aoi. There are in fact lots of such scary stories about living ghosts in ancient stories such as Konjyaku Monogatari. The ancient people's (the Heian and Muromachi periods) view of life and death, cosmology and magical world have always fascinated me!

    PS I didn't wear Tsuno-kakushi(horn hide) at my wedding ceremony(grin).

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  16. Beautiful! That story was so sad, but so interesting. It's unfair that only jealous womens soulds turn into the horned demon! but the story is so tragic, the poor mistress.
    Beautiful pictures also!

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  17. A very interesting post. Thank you for telling us this story. As you say it seems unfair that women only are punished for jealousy.

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  18. I sometimes see this Japanese-style painting but I didn't know it has such meaning. I will see the real painting someday. I must be able to see her jealousy. But the women that Murasakisikibu wrote are unique.
    I wore tunokakusi but I keep hiding Tuno.

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  19. Very interesting post! The feeling of being jealous seems to have been more or less inherent in one of human natures and so difficult to deal with whether for men or women since ancient times.
    I didn't recognize the pattern of the kimono. Now that you mentioned that, I know what they meant.
    Thank you for this great post as usual.

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  20. Life certainly isn't fair for women, is it? Especially as jealousy is a demon felt by all.

    Beautiful story - so full of humanity and truth!

    http://ladyfi.wordpress.com/

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  21. At one time, long smooth black hair was the essential element for the beauty. I wonder how tough it was to take care of such a long hair.
    Before the mid of the 19th century in Japan, there was the custom for the married women; They shaved the eyebrows and dyed the teeth in black. Still one custom has continued telling whether she is Miss or Mrs.. A woman in kimono with long sleevs is Miss, unmarried, and a woman in kimono with short sleeves is Mrs., married. But for men, no custom.
    Yes, it is very true that inferiority and shame can turn to jealousy. Jealousy issue is eternal. I also think appropriate jealousy can be a good spice for our life or marriage. But it must be very,very difficult.
    Interpretations of spider nets and wisterias are my imagination. Maybe, westerias symbolizes nobility also.
    I wore Tuno-kakushi(Horn Hide) in my wedding ceremony. I took it for grated without thinking the meaning. Oh, I might be naive.
    Interesting enough, Lady Rokujo is the most favored or popular among many women appearing in Tale of Genji.

    彼女の全身から鬼火が燃えています。あまりのすさまじい美しさに凍りつきました。ここまで人を愛せるなんて私もうらやましい気もしていますよ。でもここまでくると、もう仏の慈悲にすがるしかないのかもしれません。般若になり、般若経により解脱する??
    俵万智さん「愛する源氏物語」を出版されているのですね。読んでみたいな。

    Thanks a lot for visiting and leaving lovely comments!

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  22. What an intruiging tale of women. Jealousy is the worst thing that is in a human beings nature. It just kills the person from inwards. It makes him ugly.
    A wonderful post as always, giving a peek into your world.
    Have a lovely day:)

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  23. I guess I read Tale of Genji when I was junior high school student and as you can guess I could not comprehend at all:) Your entry gives me an opportunity to give it a try!
    I did not know the name of "Tuno Kakushi", either...
    Many things to learn from your fantastic post! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.
    Yoshi

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  24. Such an interesting post, Keiko! I didn't know that Hannya is only women. Although it does seem like the word "jealousy" is often associated with women here in Japan. I'm sure men get just as jealous as women! But I'll still have to be careful and not become like Lady Rokujo ;)

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  25. I hate to do this to you, but I tagged you :)
    http://ohmeowmeowoh.blogspot.com/2012/02/they-got-me-dang-nabbit.html

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  26. Very interesting blogg..It's beautiful...

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  27. Super interesting post! I loved it :)

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  28. Hello, snowwhite.

      Attractive works.
      You are the excellent artist.

      I thank for your usual and hearty support.
      And i pray for you and yours peace.

    ruma

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  29. A very interesting story thanks for sharing.

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  30. I think men and women have an equal capacity for jealousy and can become equally ugly because of such feelings. So it is interesting that it’s only the women that get the “horns” in this fascinating fable. :)

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  31. exceptional input ..
    Extraordinary your art Snowwhite.

    Greatings,

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  32. A stunning post. I think that jealousy is a sin :) I learn such interesting things from your blog, about Japanese culture and traditions.

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  33. Everybody seems to like this post, so let me play "devil's advocate" (with, or without horns - I leave it to the reader's imagination :-)

    I don't understand this story at all. What is the point? Othello's jealousy ends in tragedy, and that is obviously a cautionary tale, but it's not clear that this Japanese story is cautionary. In fact, it seems to be immoral, or perhaps amoral.

    Olga writes that she thinks jealousy is a sin, but there is no hint in the Japanese story that jealousy is something that one must try and overcome, however difficult. Instead, we see a story of a woman who indulged in jealousy, and allowed it to completely consume her. The woman's responsibility for her own feelings seems to be conspicuous by its absence, so I call it immoral or amoral.

    Who turned her into the spider? Is this some kind of punishment? If so, then perhaps the story can be seen as cautionary, i.e. moral. But if not, then the story seems to be teaching that jealousy can strike out of the blue, and you have no control over it. Then you are turned into a spider (by whom, and why, are not clear), again something out of your control.

    I don't understand it, and I don't feel in the slightest bit tempted to read the Tale of Genji. I don't find Uemura Shoen's painting "beautiful", either - surely an odd word to use to say the least. It is revolting and seems to be an explicit warning: "here is what happens to you if you indulge in jealousy! Beware!"

    There is perhaps nobody who has never felt jealousy to some degree. But this story seems to offer no hope: "if jealousy strikes you, that's it! There is no escape!" It is like the stories of Greek mythology.

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  34. Marc,
    If my bad English made you misunderstand, I'm very sorry.

    When I read a book, I enjoy the story itself. I don't think I find some lessons in it always. I share some feelings with the characters in the story or its author. Fables give us some lessons. But, is it necessary to get lessons from reading the novels?
    I like certain stories in Tale of Genji while I am not interested in some of them.

    But the depiction of jealous Lady Rokujo is a knockout. I am amazed and deeply moved with Uemura Shoen's aesthetic sensitivity, imagination, inspiration and more. Her painting gives me a chill, but its beauty captivates me. It is totally true "Beauty is the eye of their beholder". Some ones like it, others dislike it.

    In Noh plays, there are a lot of stories like this, where Jealous women turn to female demons with horns regardless of their will. Generally speaking, the ending of each Han-nya story is similar, Han-nya is led to the salvation by a Buddhist priest.

    I agree with you, the tragedies of Greek mythology has no hope.

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  35. This is an interesting subject for a post. Your illustrations are beautiful. It is not fair really that only jealous women are turned into demons. Men are also very jealous and here in the US many men hurt or even kill their wives, partners or girl-friend because of jealousy. The National Organization for Women states that in 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner – that is an average of 3 women every day….of all the women murdered in the US about 1/3 were killed by an intimate partner. I wonder if the statistics are as high in Japan?

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  36. Vagabonde,
    Oh, these numbers are terrible ・・・
    Extreme jealousy is a dreadful monster.

    I examined Uniform Crime Reports.

    In 2011, 1067 in total were killed, and 52.3% of them were killed by their family, and 36.0% by friends or acquaintances.
    In the Reports, I could no find how many women were killed by their partners.
    If I can find them in other sites, I will report.

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  37. I agree the painting has captured the subject/feelings well, whatever one may think of the moral (as discussed in some of the comments)

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  38. I think authentic art transcends everything.

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  39. It's interesting how the horned figure appears in myth and legend around the world.
    I like the idea of hibernating,January/February is usually a bit grey and damp here,but not cold.Spring is on it's way with with promise of new life and possibilities.

    Enjoy your week Keiko!
    Ruby

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  40. I do love the new photo in the header which I’ve hardly ever seen anywhere. The curled cat, the shining roof tiles like fish scales, the magnificent ridge-end tiles, the balance, and the color are just wonderful. I wonder where you took this picture. Thanks for sharing.

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  41. Stardust,
    It was a warm day. I had lunch near Osaka Tenmangu and saw the cat enjoying a nap on the roof. The cat was sleeping comfortably.

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  42. こんにちは。いつもきれいな写真に見とれてしまいます!!しかも英語で情報発信されているのがすごいです!!

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Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko