Murasaki the Color


Murasaki, the Color

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Genji Monogatari and Murasaki Shikibu ... 紫式部

"月百姿 石山月" Lady Murasaki at Ishiyama
Tsuki Hyakushi
by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon ... and more kigo

The Beginning of our MURASAKI discussion !


It started with this woodblock print and the question:

Lady Violett or Lady Purple?

A quick google seach found it all ...

Lady Murasaki was nicknamed "Murasaki" ("purple wisteria blossom")
The name Lady Murasaki, literally "Violet" ...
.... "Murasaki" (Purple, although "Violet" may fall more comfortably on the English ear)


Violet is a spectral color (approximately 420 - 380 nm), of a shorter wavelength than blue, while purple is a combination of red and blue or violet light. The purples are colors that are not spectral colors - purples are extra-spectral colors.
In fact, purple was not present on Newton's color wheel (which went directly from violet to red), though it is present on modern ones, between red and violet. There is no such thing as the "wavelength of purple light"; it only exists as a combination.

The actual color of Tyrian purple, the original color purple from which the name purple is derived, is the color of a dye made from a mollusk that, because of its incredible expense (many times more expensive than gold), in classical antiquity became a symbol of royalty because only the very wealthy could afford it. Therefore, Tyrian purple is also called imperial purple.
More in the Wikipedia


The origin of the word MURASAKI 

This was used for the plant of this name, which grew in large groups (mure ... mura) mure ga saku, mura saku, mura saki ...
one flower grew in many shades of murasaki (this refers to a type of hydrangea), so the color has shades (mura) (mura ni natte saku ... ... mura saki)

The pigment MURASAKI is taken from the root of the plant.

paapuru パープル
What was the Japanese for PURPLE
before the advent of using katakana ?


CLICK for more photos
Flowers of the murasaki family
ムラサキ科 murasaki ka

The Color Code for Japanese Traditional MURASAKI shades
I hope your monitor shows the fine gradations !

main murasaki 本紫 ほんむらさき #65318e

murasaki 紫 むらさき #884898

Edo murasaki 江戸紫 えどむらさき #745399

murasaki dark kon 紫紺 しこん #460e44

blue murasaki ao 青紫 あおむらさき #674598

deep murasaki 深紫 ふかむらさき #493759

wisteria murasaki fuji 藤紫 ふじむらさき #a59aca

murasaki shion color 紫苑色 しおんいろ #867ba9

Kyoto murasaki 京紫 きょうむらさき #9d5b8b

"young murasaki" wakamurasaki
若紫 わかむらさき #bc64a4

beni murasaki 紅紫 べにむらさき #b44c97

plum murasaki 梅紫 うめむらさき #aa4c8f

light murasaki 浅紫 あさむらさき #c4a3bf

murasaki chrystal 紫水晶 むらさきすいしょう #e7e7eb

Japanese Color Codes Click here for color boxes.


Compiled by Larry Bole :

Murasaki (紫) is the Japanese word for the colour purple.

Other translations include Lavender, as used by Edward Seidensticker in his English version of the Genji Monogatari; Violet; and Violet Root, which in Japanese poetry denotes Constancy. Genji, in [a poem], names the murasaki or purple gromwell, because its color resembles
the wisteria (in Japanese, fuji) thereby referring to Fujitsubo, "the Lady of the Wisteria Court", a woman he is violently in love with for the first part of the novel. It happens that Fujitsubo is Murasaki's aunt.
Thus, in a word association game very characteristic of Japanese poetry, the similarity between the two colors led to the name Murasaki, perhaps the most illustrious name in Japanese literature.

Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum
CLICK for more photosor Purple Gromwell is a plant species of the genus Lithospermum. It has been cultivated in Japan since the Nara period for its root, which can be used for herbal medicine and to make dyes.

One Japanese word for the plant, murasaki (紫), inspired the pen name "Lady Murasaki" for the author of The Tale of Genji and is also the source of the general Japanese term for the color purple, murasaki iro (紫色).

The dyes made from its root also had other names, such as shikon (紫 根), but all of them were difficult to work with because of their requirement for an alum-rich mordant and the resulting colors' extreme vulnerability to photobleaching. During the Heian Period, sumptuary laws restricted murasaki-dyed clothing to the Empress and her ladies in waiting.

In Jane Reichhold's book of translation of poetry from The Tale of Genji, "A String of Flowers Untied...: Love Poems from The Tale of Genji," she tends to use the same color translation as Seidensticker does: lavender, although she also uses purple as well.

Reichhold's Chapter 5 is titled,
"Waka Murasaki: Young Lavender."

Here are two translations of poems from the book:

te ni tsumi te
itsushikamo mi n
murasaki no
ne ni kayoi keru
nobe no wakakusa

taking it in hand
may I soon take care of
the root of royal purple
still in the field of young grasses

...Genji begins lessons for Murasaki in poetry and calligraphy. He writes out for her the old poems from the anthologies for her to copy. One day, choosing lavender paper, he wrote the following 'waka' from an unknown author in the 'Kokin Rokujoo'.

shira ne domo
musashino to ieba
kakota re nu
yoshiya sakoso wa
murasaki no yue

though I cannot see it
when one speaks of Musashino
I sigh so deeply
the reason fo this are thoughts
of those grasses of lavender


In a German dictionary, we find

Purpurfarbe; Violett; Lila.
violett; purpur.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Purple / Violett Daruma Dolls
murasaki daruma

紫 (だるま 。 ダルマ 。達磨)

This is a color of the Feng-Shui system.
Its symbolic meaning is : your wish will be fulfilled, of high rank, supremacy and more.

© gp-pro


Purple Papermachee Doll

CLICK for more photos

Little Netsuke

CLICK for more murasaki daruma

Click on the photos for more.


Two haiku by ISSA

murasaki no sode ni chiri keri haru no yuki

scattering onto
my purple sleeves...
spring snow

murasaki no kumo ni itsu noru nishi no umi

on purple clouds
when will I set sail?
western sea

This haiku without season alludes to rebirth in the Pure Land, located somewhere in the mythic west.
。。。Tr. David Lanoue


kigo for mid-spring

wakamurasaki 若紫 (わかむらさき) gromwell, stoneseed
lit. "young murasaki", the color mauve, light purple, see above
..... murasaki 紫(むらさき)
Lithospermum erythrorhizon

family Boraginaceae. Herbs or small shrubs.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

The Tale of Genji
. Lady Wakamurasaki 若紫 .


kigo for late summer

murasaki 紫草 (むらさき) "Murasaki plant"
hana murasaki 花紫(はなむらさき)
murasaki no hana 紫の花(むらさきのはな)
Lithospermum erythrorhizon

It grows wild in many mountain regions of Japan. The root is used for dyeing and medicine.

Related words

***** Colors in Haiku, Traditional Japanese Colors



Unknown said...

Those Issa's haiku are very sensible.
I understand that he knew well the color of purple.
Thank you for your wonderful site.


Gabi Greve said...

Kyoto’s purple mountains - John Dougill

Sanshi suimei 山紫水明 purple mountains and crystal streams

So runs the epithet about Kyoto which the nineteenth-century historian Rai Sanyo used as the name for his study by the banks of the Kamogawa (the thatched cottage still stands next to Marutamachi...
... From 604 Japanese Buddhism introduced a coloured code of ranking. Purple was reserved for the top class because it was hard to make the dye and therefore had scarcity value. Indeed, formerly only the imperial family had been allowed to wear it; now top ranking priests were entitled too. ...
... the football team was named Kyoto Purple Sanga!

Gabi Greve said...

"Although the team retains the same basic color scheme, somewhere around the mid-00s local fans began to agitate for a "simpler" name that would roll off the tongue a bit easier.
As a result, the "Purple" was officially dropped in 2007 to leave the current name, Kyoto Sanga."