The Tale of Genji is a classic japanese novel, probably written more than a thousand years ago. The 19th century artist Toyohara Kunichika painted a picture for every of the 54 chapters.

Every picture is showing an open book, on the pages of which a glyph is repeated. For each chapter, a different glyph is used (also referred to as crest or Genjimon). There is a system to their creation.

Examples from two different chapters:

picture example glyph example

Here you can browse through Kunichika's paintings (there's a previous/next navigation). Unfortunately the details under chapter 18 are messed up, but one can recognize the pattern anyhow.

Can you make out the system and the 'mistakes'?

Edit: It is not necessary to know Japanese. Do not base your deductions on the summary linked to below, the representation of the brushstrokes is deceiving. Use it only to identify the indistinctly painted glyphs. The order of the glyphs is of no importance.

If you find it too hard making them out, view this glyph summary.

Hint one:

Intersections should be interpreted like this: interhint

Hint two:

Certain glyphs are duplicates in terms of the system.

Hint three:

My lucky number can be found here.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you need to know Japanese? $\endgroup$
    – klm123
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ Is that glyph summary really accurate? There seem to be some discrepancies with the browsable paintings. For instance, in the painting for #17, the glyph is five vertical lines, all of them joined together except the fourth one, which stands alone. But the summary shows six vertical lines, the second and third standing alone. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's the summary I was comparing the painting to. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, so the black lines in the summary represent the gap between stripes, not the stripes themselves... Got it. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


It looks like these represent partitions of a set of 5 items.

But there should be 52 only according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_a_set.

It looks like #35 and #42 in the glyph summary are equivalent. And #54 doesn't fit with the pattern. Or it is a funny variation of #53.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.