Aoi (Hollyhock) (The Tale of Genji) (葵 (源氏物語))

Aoi (Hollyhock) is the title of one of the fifty-four chapters of "The Tale of Genji." It is the ninth chapter. The title comes from the waka poems exchanged between Gen no Naishinosuke and Hikaru Genji: 'Alas, how fickle it is! For all my having been waiting for this festival, which is said to have a miraculous virtue, thinking that it would be the day to meet you, without knowing someone else had already seen you with the raising hollyhock over her hand.' and 'You held up the hollyhock of the day of meeting not only to see me but also as many as eighty clans, didn't you? Isn't it fickle enough to feel unpleasant?'. It also became the theme of a Noh play "Aoi no Ue" (Lady Aoi, possibly by Zeami).


Emperor Kiritsubo abdicates and Emperor Suzaku, Hikaru Genji's older brother, ascends the throne. The young prince of Fujitsubo becomes the Crown Prince, and Genji becomes his guardian. Also, the daughter of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro and the former Crown Prince (later Empress Akikonomu) was appointed as a high priestess.

On the day of the purification ceremony (when the Saiin (an Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Kamo-jinja Shrines) performs her ablutions on the beach of the Kamo river) of the Kamo festival (also called the Aoi (Hollyhock) Festival, which is held on the day of the Rooster in the Fourth Month (old lunar calendar)), there occurs a dispute over where to park the spectators' carriages between the retainers of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, one of Genji's lovers who had been watching without disclosing her identity, and the retainers of Lady Aoi, Genji's lawful wife who was pregnant at that time and had been in poor physical condition and so was there to watch the event for some diversion. Due to the rough behavior of Lady Aoi's retainers taking advantage of their power, Rokujo no Miyasudokoro's gissha (ox-drawn carriage) was damaged. Rokujo no Miyasudokoro was disgraced on the Ichijo avenue, which was full of spectators. This was an unbearable humiliation for her, being the daughter of a minister and the former Crown Prince's wife, and for this she bore a deep grudge against Lady Aoi.

After that, Lady Aoi became ill and bedridden. It was the work of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro's spirit. Genji also attended and nursed Lady Aoi who had been suffering, but he witnessed the spirit of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro while tending to her and stood aghast. Lady Aoi gave birth to Yugiri after a difficult delivery approximately in the middle of the eighth month (old calendar), but a few days later, on the night of the autumn conference on promotions and appointments, her condition took a sudden turn for the worse and she passed away. Her cremation and funeral was carried out in the later half of the Eighth Month (old lunar calendar).

After completing the memorial service on the forty-ninth day after the death of Lady Aoi, Genji went back to the Nijo-in mansion and secretly married Lady Murasaki. It occurred so suddenly that Lady Murasaki was shocked by it and became thoroughly gloomy and did not even try to speak. However, Genji took this as an opportunity to announce her origins to her father Hyobukyo no Miya as well as to the public.

[Original Japanese]