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Imperial Chinese missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom

Imperial Chinese missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom

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Imperial Chinese missions to the Ryūkyū Kingdom were diplomatic missions which were intermittently sent by the Yuan
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

, Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 and Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 emperors to Shuri, Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia.

Some missions were sent to perform investiture
Investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 ceremonies for the King of Ryūkyū, formally acknowledging him as King on behalf of the Chinese Imperial Court, and as a tributary
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

 subordinate.

The Envoys in Shuri


Shuri was the royal capital of the Ryūkyū Kingdom
Ryukyu Kingdom
The Ryūkyū Kingdom was an independent kingdom which ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th century to the 19th century. The Kings of Ryūkyū unified Okinawa Island and extended the kingdom to the Amami Islands in modern-day Kagoshima Prefecture, and the Sakishima Islands near Taiwan...

. It is today part of the city of Naha, Okinawa
Naha, Okinawa
is the capital city of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa.Naha is a coastal city located on the East China Sea coast of the southern part of Okinawa Island, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands...

).

Upon the accession of a new king, the news was generally communicated to the Chinese capital, along with a petition for investiture, by a formal Ryukyuan tribute mission
Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China
Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China were diplomatic missions which were intermittently sent from the Ryukyuan kings to the Ming and Qing emperors. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia.-History:King Satto...

. Following the 1609 invasion of Ryukyu
Invasion of Ryukyu
The invasion of Ryukyu by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma took place in 1609, and marked the beginning of the Ryūkyū Kingdom's status as a vassal state under Satsuma...

, beginning with the succession of Shō Hō
Sho Ho
', also known as Shengfeng, was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. He succeeded Shō Nei, whose reign saw the invasion of Ryūkyū by Japanese forces in 1609 and the subjugation of the kingdom to Satsuma Domain, and ruled from 1621 until 1640....

, Satsuma Domain also had to be notified and asked for approval and confirmation of the new king.

Chinese envoys would then be dispatched - sometimes quite quickly, sometimes not until over a decade later - arriving in ships called in Okinawan
Okinawan language
Central Okinawan, or simply Okinawan , is a Northern Ryukyuan language spoken primarily in the southern half of the island of Okinawa, as well as in the surrounding islands of Kerama, Kumejima, Tonaki, Aguni, and a number of smaller peripheral islands...

. The mission would usually consist of two official envoy ships, separate crafts carrying the chief envoy and his deputy, as some uncertainty accompanied the journey; these would be accompanied by a number of merchant ships. During Japan's Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

, an agent from Satsuma known as a would be sent down to Ryūkyū to supervise the exchanges and interactions between Chinese and Ryukyuan officials, albeit from somewhat of a distance, given the policy of hiding Satsuma's involvement in Ryūkyū from the Chinese.

Envoys generally stayed in Ryūkyū for four to eight months, and were extensively entertained by the Ryukyuan royal court. A number of structures built for this purpose, including the Ryūtan pond and the Hokuden (North Hall) of Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle is a gusuku in Shuri, Okinawa. It was the palace of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed...

, can still be seen today on the castle grounds. The total Chinese entourage generally numbered between 300 and 800 people, and hosting and entertaining the Chinese envoys was an extremely expensive endeavor for the Ryukyuan court.

A "" oversaw these entertainments; kumi odori
Kumi Odori
, meaning "combination dance" or "ensemble dance" in both the Okinawan and Japanese languages, is a form of narrative traditional Ryukyuan dance.Originating in the Okinawan capital of Shuri, Okinawa in 1719, the original purpose of this dance was to provide amusement and diversions, which were...

, a traditional form of Ryukyuan dance-drama, was first created and performed for entertaining an investiture envoy and his fellows, in 1719.

Timeline of Missions


King Satto
Satto
Satto , also known as Chadu, was a king of Chūzan, one of three kingdoms formerly on the island of Okinawa. His reign was marked by expansion and development of Chūzan's trade relations with other states, and the beginning of Okinawa's tributary relations with Ming Dynasty China, a relationship...

 became, in 1372, the first Ryukyuan king to submit to Chinese suzerainty. Beginning with the investiture of Satto's successor, Bunei
Bunei
This article is about the Japanese era; for the Ryukyuan king, see Bunei . was a after Kōchō and before Kenji. This period spanned the years from February 1264 to April 1275. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

, in 1404, twenty-two such missions traveled to Ryūkyū in total, the last in 1866, for the investiture of Shō Tai
Sho Tai
was the last king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom . His reign saw greatly increased interactions with travelers from abroad, particularly from Europe and the United States, as well as the eventual end of the kingdom and its annexation by Japan as Okinawa Prefecture.In 1879, the deposed king was forced to...


Year Emperor of China Chinese envoys Ryūkyū king Comments
1373 Jianwen
Jianwen Emperor
The Jianwen Emperor , with the personal name Zhu Yunwen , reigned as the second Emperor of the Ming dynasty...

Yang Zai Satto
Satto
Satto , also known as Chadu, was a king of Chūzan, one of three kingdoms formerly on the island of Okinawa. His reign was marked by expansion and development of Chūzan's trade relations with other states, and the beginning of Okinawa's tributary relations with Ming Dynasty China, a relationship...

mission purpose is to bring islands into Sinitic system
Sinocentrism
Sinocentrism is an ethnocentric perspective that regards China to be the center of civilization and superior to all other nations. The related but distinct concept of the superiority of the Han Chinese ethnicity both within and without China is known as Han chauvinism.- Overview and context...

.
1404 Yongle
Yongle Emperor
The Yongle Emperor , born Zhu Di , was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China from 1402 to 1424. His Chinese era name Yongle means "Perpetual Happiness".He was the Prince of Yan , possessing a heavy military base in Beiping...

Shi Zhong Bunei
Bunei (Ryukyu)
Bunei , also known as Wuning, was the last king of Chūzan, one of three kingdoms on the island of Okinawa, before it was united into the Ryūkyū Kingdom by Shō Hashi.Bunei inherited the throne upon the death of his father, King Satto...

investiture (cefeng) mission confirms Bunei as king in Ryūkyū.
1415 Yongle Chen Xiuro Shō Shishō
Shō Shishō
, also known as Talumei, was a king of Chūzan, one of three kingdoms on the island of Okinawa, before they were united into one island kingdom. He was the progenitor of what became the Shō Dynasty....

 
1427 Xuande
Xuande Emperor
The Xuande Emperor was Emperor of China from 1425 to 1435. His era name means "Proclamation of Virtue".-Biography:...

Chai Shan; Ruan Jian Shō Hashi
Sho Hashi
Shō Hashi was the first king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom , uniting the three kingdoms of Chūzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan by conquest...

 
1443 Zhengtong
Zhengtong Emperor
Zhu Qizhen was an emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He ruled as the Zhengtong Emperor from 1435 to 1449, and as the Tianshun Emperor from 1457 to 1464....

Yu Bian; Liu Xun Shō Shitatsu 
1448 Zhengtong Chen Chuan; Wan Xiang Shō Shitatsu
1452 Jingtai
Jingtai Emperor
The Jingtai Emperor was Emperor of China from 1449 to 1457. The second son of the Xuande Emperor, he was selected in 1449 to succeed his older brother, the Zhengtong Emperor, when the latter was captured by Mongols following the Tumu Crisis...

Qiao Yi; Tong Shouhong Shō Kinpuku 
1456 Jingtai Yan Cheng; Liu Jian Shō Taikyū
Shō Taikyū
' was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the fifth of the line of the first Shō Dynasty. His reign saw the construction of many Buddhist temples, and the casting of the .- Life and reign :...

 
1464 Chenghua
Chenghua Emperor
The Chenghua Emperor was Emperor of the Ming dynasty in China, between 1464 and 1487. His era name means "Accomplished change".-Childhood:Born Zhu Jianshen, he was the Zhengtong Emperor's son. He was only 2 years old when his father, the Zhengtong emperor, was captured by the Oirat Mongols and...

Pang Rong; Cai Zhe Shō Toku
Shō Toku
Shō Toku 尚徳王 was the son of Shō Taikyū and last king of his dynasty. He came to power as a young man in a kingdom whose treasury had been depleted. He engaged in efforts to conquer islands and took Hachiman as his banner to emphasize his martial spirit. His conquest of Kikai did not help financial...

 
1472 Hongzhi
Hongzhi Emperor
The Hongzhi Emperor was emperor of the Ming dynasty in China between 1487 and 1505. Born Zhu Youcheng , he was the son of the Chenghua Emperor and his reign as emperor of China is called the Hongzhi...

Guang Rong; Han Wen  Shō En
Sho En
' was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the founder of the Second Shō Dynasty. Prior to becoming king, he was known as '.-Early life and rise to power:...

 
installation of the new king.
1479 Hongzhi Dong Min and Zhang Xiang Shō Shin
Sho Shin
' was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the third of the line of the Second Shō Dynasty. Shō Shin's long reign has been described as "the Great Days of Chūzan", a period of great peace and relative prosperity. He was the son of Shō En, the founder of the dynasty, by Yosoidon, Shō En's second wife,...

 
1534 Jaijing
Jiajing Emperor
The Jiajing Emperor was the 11th Ming Dynasty Emperor of China who ruled from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin...

Chen Kan; Gao Cheng Shō Sei
Sho Sei
*For the 19th century king of Ryūkyū , see Shō Sei .Shō Sei was king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom from 1526 to 1555...

 
mission encompassed a retinue of over 200 persons travelling in two ships which were specially constructed for this diplomatic purpose. The ambassador recorded details of the voyage and the reception the Chinese encountered in Shuri
Shuri
Shuri may refer to:* Shuri, Bhutan* Shuri, Okinawa - former capital of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.* Shuri Kondo...

, the capital of the kingdom. This book, Shi Liu-ch'iu lu , still exists in transcription Chinese, Japanese and Korean versions.
1561 Jaijing Guo Rulin; Li Jichun Shō Gen
Sho Gen
Shō Gen was king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom from 1556 to 1572. He was called "Gen, the mute." the king required considerable support from the Sanshikan , the chief council of royal advisors...

 
1576 Wanli
Wanli Emperor
The Wanli Emperor was emperor of China between 1572 and 1620. His era name means "Ten thousand calendars". Born Zhu Yijun, he was the Longqing Emperor's third son...

Shō Ei Hseieh Chieh was a member of the 1576 mission to the Ryukyu Islands. He published an account of his experiences.>
1579 Wanli Xiao Chongye; Xie Jie Shō Ei
1606 Wanli Xia Ziyang; Wang Zizhen Shō Nei
Sho Nei
' was king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom from 1587–1620. He reigned during the 1609 invasion of Ryūkyū and was the first king of Ryūkyū to be a vassal to the Shimazu clan of Satsuma, a Japanese feudal domain....

1633 Chongzhen
Chongzhen Emperor
The Chongzhen Emperor was the 16th and last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China. He reigned from 1627 to 1644, under an era name that means "honorable and auspicious".- Early years :...

Du Sance; Yang Lun Shō Hō
Sho Ho
', also known as Shengfeng, was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. He succeeded Shō Nei, whose reign saw the invasion of Ryūkyū by Japanese forces in 1609 and the subjugation of the kingdom to Satsuma Domain, and ruled from 1621 until 1640....

 
investitutre of king
1683 Kangxi
Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor ; Manchu: elhe taifin hūwangdi ; Mongolian: Энх-Амгалан хаан, 4 May 1654 –20 December 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the first to be born on Chinese soil south of the Pass and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1661 to 1722.Kangxi's...

Shō Tei
Shō Tei
' was the 11th King of the Second Shō Dynasty of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, who held the throne from 1669 until his death in 1709. He was the ruler of Ryūkyū at the time of the compiling of the Chūzan Seibu ....

investitutre of king.
1719 Kangxi Shō Kei
Sho Kei
' was king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom from 1713-1752. His reign, strongly guided by royal advisor Sai On, is regarded as a political and economic golden age and period of the flowering of Okinawan culture....

Kumi odori
Kumi Odori
, meaning "combination dance" or "ensemble dance" in both the Okinawan and Japanese languages, is a form of narrative traditional Ryukyuan dance.Originating in the Okinawan capital of Shuri, Okinawa in 1719, the original purpose of this dance was to provide amusement and diversions, which were...

, a new form of dance-drama, created by Tamagusuku Chōkun
Tamagusuku Chōkun
, also known by the Chinese-style name , was a Ryukyuan aristocrat-bureaucrat credited with the creation of the Ryukyuan dance-drama form known as kumi odori.Tamagusuku was born in what is today the Gibo neighborhood of Shuri...

 for the entertainment of the Chinese envoys, is first performed for the envoys for the investiture of King Shō Kei
Sho Kei
' was king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom from 1713-1752. His reign, strongly guided by royal advisor Sai On, is regarded as a political and economic golden age and period of the flowering of Okinawan culture....

.
1757 Qianlong
Qianlong Emperor
The Qianlong Emperor was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796...

Quan Kui; Chou Huang  Shō Boku
Shō Boku
' was a king of Ryukyu. His reign began in 1756. Although a period of relative stability he had to contend with a tsunami in 1771 that devastated the Miyako Islands and Yaeyama Islands. His reign also saw the Chinese envoy Chou Huang who wrote a sixteen volume topography of the islands for the...

Chou Huang compiles the Ryūkyū-koku shiryaku , an account of Ryukyuan history and customs based on the records and reports of earlier Chinese envoys, Ryukyuan records, and Chou's own observations
1866 Tongzhi
Tongzhi Emperor
The Tongzhi Emperor , born Aisin-Gioro Dzai Šun, was the tenth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1861 to 1875. His reign, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, the Empress...

Shō Tai
Sho Tai
was the last king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom . His reign saw greatly increased interactions with travelers from abroad, particularly from Europe and the United States, as well as the eventual end of the kingdom and its annexation by Japan as Okinawa Prefecture.In 1879, the deposed king was forced to...

final investiture mission confirms Shō Tai as King of Ryūkyū.


In the late 19th century, the Sinocentric tributary state system was superseded by the Westphalian multi-state system.

See also

  • Ryukyuan missions to Edo
    Ryukyuan missions to Edo
    Over the course of Japan's Edo period, the Okinawan Kingdom of Ryūkyū sent eighteen , the capital of Tokugawa Japan. The unique pattern of these diplomatic exchanges evolved from models established by the Chinese, but without denoting any predetermined relationship to China or to the Chinese world...

  • Japanese missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom
  • Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China
    Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China
    Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China were diplomatic missions which were intermittently sent from the Ryukyuan kings to the Ming and Qing emperors. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia.-History:King Satto...

  • Foreign relations of Imperial China
    Foreign relations of Imperial China
    Imperial China had a long tradition of foreign relations. From the Qin Dynasty until the Qing Dynasty, the Culture of China had an impact upon neighboring and distant countries, while gradually being transformed by outside influences as well....

  • Ryukyuan missions to Joseon
    Ryukyuan missions to Joseon
    Ryukyuan missions to Joseon were diplomatic and trade ventures of the Ryūkyū Kingdom which were intermittently sent in the years 1392-1879. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia...

  • Joseon missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom
    Joseon missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom
    Joseon missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom were diplomatic and trade ventures of the Joseon Dynasty which were intermittently sent after 1392. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia...


  • Kōchi Chōjō
    Kōchi Chōjō
    ' was a Ryukyuan aristocrat known for leading a movement to petition the government of Qing Dynasty China to rescue the Ryūkyū Kingdom from annexation by Imperial Japan, following the 1872 announcement by the government of Meiji Japan to do so....


Further reading