Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部 973? - 1025? or d.992?) was a novelist, poet, and servant of the imperial court during the Heian period of Japan. She is well known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written about year 1000 and said to be the first novel in the world literature.
Lady Murasaki's mother died while she was a child, so Murasaki was raised, contrary to customs of the time, by her father, a scholar and officer of the imperial court. During Heian-era Japan, couples lived separately and children were raised by the mother and her family. Also contrary to customs of the time, her father gave her a male's education. Males were educated in and taught Chinese, the official language of the court, while females were taught kana and poetry. Her father praised her intelligence and ability, but lamented she was "born a woman".
Three works are attributed to Murasaki, the most important being The Tale of Genji. The Murasaki Shikibu Diary and The Murasaki Shikibu Collection were arranged and published posthumously.
A fictionalized biography of Murasaki called The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel was written by Liza Crihfield Dalby, who is the only Westerner to have been trained as a geisha.