First Shō dynasty

The First Shō dynasty[1][2] (第一尚氏王朝[3][4][5][6][7], daiichi Shō-shi ō-chō) was a dynasty of the Ryukyu Kingdom on Okinawa Island in the 15th century, ruled by the First Shō family[8] (第一尚氏, daiichi Shō-shi) under the title of King of Chūzan. According to the official history books compiled during the second Shō Dynasty, it lasted from 1406 to 1469. However, the official account is considered unreliable by modern historians because it contradicts contemporary sources.

First Shō
Royal house
Final rulerShō Toku

Official narrativeEdit

During the second Shō Dynasty, Ryūkyū compiled official history books, starting with Haneji Chōshū's Chūzan Seikan (1650), which was followed by Sai Taku's edition of the Chūzan Seifu (1701) and Sai On's edition of the Chūzan Seifu (1725). Although the official narrative based on Sai On's Chūzan Seifu is widely circulated, it is full of contradictions with contemporary sources.[9]

In 1406, Bunei was overthrown and Shō Shishō became the nominal ruler of Chūzan, placed there by his eldest son Shō Hashi as part of a power bid to control Chūzan while giving an appearance to China of proper Confucian respect for one's elders. Shō Hashi conquered Hokuzan (Sanhoku) in 1416 and Nanzan (Sannan) in 1429, unified Okinawa successfully. He was given the surname Shō () by the Chinese Emperor.[10] King Shō Toku died in 1469, and his offspring was killed in a coup d'état by Kanemaru, who took over the royal name to disguise the coup d'état as a normal succession and thereby became the founder of the second Shō Dynasty.

Inconsistencies and contradictionsEdit

Takeover of Nanzan and HokuzanEdit

It was Sai On who first claimed that Chūzan annihilated Hokuzan in 1416 and Nanzan in 1429. No contemporary source confirms these dates. The King of Chūzan never reported the annihilation of the two kings to the Chinese. The Chinese Veritable Records of the Ming only indicates that the last tributary mission under the name of the King of Hokuzan was of 1415 while that of the King of Nanzan was of 1429. Having access to Chinese records, Sai On naïvely inferred that the two kings were removed immediately after the last missions.[9]

The Chūzan Seikan records an earlier form of the Okinawan narrative before being contaminated by Chinese sources. According to the Chūzan Seikan, Shō Hashi succeeded his father Shishō as Aji (local ruler) of Sashiki in 1402. After that, he took over Nanzan by force. The King of Nanzan, identified as Shō Hashi, then started a war with Bunei, King of Chūzan, and forced him to surrender in 1421. After that, the King of Nanzan became King of Chūzan. The King of Chūzan annihilated the King of Hokuzan in 1422, unifying the State of Ryūkyū (i.e., Okinawa Island). In 1423, Shō Hashi reported the unification to the Ming emperor, and Shishō was posthumously appointed as King of Chūzan.[9]

Sai Taku's edition of the Chūzan Seifu mostly agrees with the Chūzan Seikan. However, it dates Shō Hashi's takeover of Chūzan as 1405, not 1421. It also claims that instead of becoming the King of Chūzan himself, Shō Hashi installed his father Shishō as King of Chūzan. Sai Taku's modifications to the narrative was motivated by his rather limited access to diplomatic records. According to the Veritable Records of the Ming, "Crown Prince" Shishō reported the death of his "father" Bunei in 1407. Similarly, Crown Prince Shō Hashi reportedly succeeded his late father Shishō as King of Chūzan in 1425. Because the Okinawans routinely deceived the Chinese into thinking that the throne was normally succeeded from the father to the son, however, it is very difficult to infer the actual political situations from Chinese sources.[9]

Shō as the surnameEdit

The Chūzan Seikan and subsequent Okinawan sources claim that the surname Shō was given to Shō Hashi by the Ming emperor. However, this statement is not confirmed by contemporary Chinese sources.[11]

Modern historians consider that his name was Shōhashi, not Shō Hashi, when he first used the name in a diplomatic correspondence. It was, however, later reinterpreted as the combination of the surname Shō and the given name Hashi. In fact, his father was always referred to as Shishō, not Shō Shishō, in contemporary Chinese sources. With the assumption that Shōhashi is a corrupt form of an Okinawan name, some try to decipher it. A popular theory associates Shōhashi with shō aji, because according to Okinawan narratives, Sho Hashi was extremely short in height and was referred to as the Sashiki aji, the Dwarf (佐敷小按司, Sashiki shō aji). Another theory relates Shōhashi to Chōhachi (ちやうはち), a personal name appearing twice in the Omoro Sōshi.[11]

Shō Taikyū's year of birth, Shiro and FuriEdit

The history books compiled during the second Shō Dynasty claim that Shō Taikyū was born in 1415. However, Ryūkyū's own contemporary sources prove that his real year of birth is 1410. As a devoted Buddhist, Shō Taikyū founded multiple Buddhist temples and donated Buddhist bells including the famous Bridge of Nations Bell (1458). His year of birth is recorded in inscriptions on these bells.[12]

The Chūzan Seikan and Sai Taku's edition of the Chūzan Seifu state that Shō Taikyū was a son of Shō Kinpuku, who was born in 1398 according to these history books. Historian Takase Kyōko speculates that they manipulated Shō Taikyū's year of birth because as of 1410, Shō Kinpuku was too young to be the biological father of Shō Taikyū. Sai On's edition of the Chūzan Seifu changed Shō Taikyū's father from Shō Kinpuku to Shō Hashi but kept the wrong year of birth intact.[12]

Sai On added a suspicious episode concerning Shō Taikyū's ascension:

After Shō Kinpuku died in 1453, his son Shiro and his younger brother Furi fought a succession struggle. The whole castle was on fire (満城火起), and a repository where the royal stamp was stored was burned down. Because both died during the struggle, Shō Taikyū, another younger brother of Shō Kinpuku, ascended to the throne.

The Chūzan Seikan and Sai Taku's edition of the Chūzan Seifu made no mention of Shiro and Furi, let alone the alleged succession struggle. Moreover, no Okinawan sources claim that Shō Taikyū rebuilt the castle. Contemporary sources left by two separate groups of Korean drifters show no trace of the alleged large-scale fire.[13]

Sai On's modifications to the traditional Okinawan narrative were based on Chinese sources, where Shō Taikyū reported the alleged struggle to the Ming emperor in 1454. Because the Okinawans routinely deceived the Chinese, it is not clear exactly what happened in 1453. Historian Takase Kyōko speculates that it was Shō Taikyū who launched a coup d'etat against Shō Kinpuku or his son, failed to inherit the royal stamp under the abnormal circumstances, and made up the story of the fire to obtain a new one from the Ming emperor. Note, however, that the castle-wide fire is not mentioned in Shō Taikyū's original report but is Sai On's invention.[13]

The last king ChūwaEdit

According to the Okinawan narratives, the last King Shō Toku was 29 years old when he died in 1469, leaving an infant son. However, this contradicts two contemporary sources.

In 1461, Korean drifters were rescued by Ryūkyū and stayed at Ryūkyū's royal palace for several months before returning to Korea. According to the interrogation by the Korean authority, they stated that the king was 33 years old and had four children, with the eldest one being about 15 years old. Another Korean source named the Haedong Jegukgi records a statement by the Zen monk Jitan Seidō, who visited Korea as an envoy of the King of Ryūkyū in 1471. According to Jitan, the incumbent king was Chūwa (中和). He was 16 years old and had a 13 year old brother named Oshi (於思) and a 10 year old brother named Setsukei (截渓). This account agrees with the drifters' if Shō Toku's eldest son died sometime between 1461 and 1471.[13]

In light of contemporary sources, it is clear that the Okinawan narratives claimed Shō Toku and his child(ren) to be much younger than they really were. All evidence of the last king Chūwa was destroyed in Okinawa, presumably because the second Shō family was unable to explain a legitimate reason as to why the adolescent king had to be deposed.[13]

Family treeEdit

The following family tree is taken from Sai On's edition of the Chūzan Seifu and is considered inaccurate by modern historians.

First Shō family
Shō Shishō 尚思紹
r. 1407–14211
Shō Hashi 尚巴志
Shō Chū 尚忠
Shō Kinpuku 尚金福
Shō Taikyū 尚泰久
Shō Shitatsu 尚思達
Shō Toku 尚徳


  1. ^ Richard Pearson (2009). "Okinawa: The Rise of an Island Kingdom : Archaeological and Cultural Perspectives : Proceedings of a Symposium, Kingdom of the Coral Seas, November 17, 2007, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London". Archaeopress. In an alternate scheme, the First Sho Dynasty ( 1429 – 1469 ) was established by Sho Hashi in 1429 and the Second Sho Dynasty ( 1470 - 1879 ) was established by Sho En in 1470 ( ed . ) ) {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Kerr, George H. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing. p. 103. Sho En...took care that due reverence was shown for all his royal predecessors, including those of the "First Sho Dynasty", which he had displaced.
  3. ^ 林陸朗 (1991). 日本史総合辞典 (in Japanese). 東京書籍. p. 438. ISBN 9784487731756. この第 1 尚氏王朝から第 2 尚氏王朝の成立期にかけて( 14 世紀後半から 15 世紀にかけて)沖縄は活発な中継貿易を展開し、中国・朝鮮・東南アジアの諸国との交易をもって沖縄の黄金時代をもたらした。
  4. ^ 外間守善 (1986). 沖縄の歴史と文化 (in Japanese). 中央公論新社. p. 63. ISBN 9784121007995. 一四六九年、第一尚氏王朝は、王朝内の実力者であった内間金丸を中心にした勢力に倒されてしまう。金丸は翌年即位して尚円と称した。第二尚氏王朝の成立である。
  5. ^ 高良倉吉 (1981). 沖繩歴史への視点 (in Japanese). 沖繩タイムス社. p. 121. 彼のシヱーマに阿麻和利とその時代を位置過程に三山や第一、第二尚氏王朝の出現を位置づけるという画期的な論理をこれに対置している。
  6. ^ 宮城栄昌; 高宮廣衛 (1983). 沖縄歴史地図 (in Japanese). 柏書房. p. 3. この時期に三つの小国家ができるが、 15 世紀前半、これらの小国家は統一され、第一尚氏王朝およびそれに続く第二尚氏王朝による王国が形成された。
  7. ^ "琉球". ブリタニカ国際大百科事典. 11~12世紀頃から古代首長,按司が割拠,やがて沖縄島には三つの小国家(山北〈北山〉,中山,山南〈南山〉)が形成され,明朝廷にそれぞれ朝貢し覇を競うが,のち中山に統一された(第一尚氏王朝)。
  8. ^ Kerr, George H. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. pp467.
  9. ^ a b c d Wada Hisanori 和田久徳 (2006). "Ryūkyū-koku no Sanzan tōitsu" 琉球国の三山統一. Ryūkyū ōkoku no keisei: Sanzan tōitsu to sono zengo 琉球王国の形成: 三山統一とその前後 (in Japanese). Yōju Shorin 榕樹書林. pp. 7–64.
  10. ^ Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Tokyo: Tuttle, 2000. p. 89.
  11. ^ a b Ikemiya Masaharu 池宮正治 (2015). "Ryūkyū no rekishi jojutsu: "Chūzan Seikan" kara "Kyūyō" e" 琉球の歴史叙述: 『中山世鑑』から『球陽』へ. Ryūkyū-shi bunka ron 琉球史文化論 (in Japanese). Kasama Shoin 笠間書院. pp. 3–21.
  12. ^ a b Takase Kyōko 高瀬恭子 (2003). "Dōjidai shiryō ni miru Ko-Ryūkyū no ō tachi" 同時代史料にみる古琉球の王たち [The Records of Old RyuKyuan Kings in their Contemporary Sources]. Shiryō henshūshitsu kiyō 史料編集室紀要 [Bulletin of Historiographical Institute in Okinawa Prefectual Library] (in Japanese). Okinawa-ken Kyōiku Iinkai 沖縄県教育委員会 (28): 195–207.
  13. ^ a b c d Takase Kyōko 高瀬恭子 (2009). "Daiichi Shō-shi saigo no ō "Chūwa"" 第一尚氏最後の王「中和」. Ajia no umi no Ko-Ryūkyū: Higashi Ajia, Chōsen, Chūgoku 東アジアの海の古琉球: 東アジア・朝鮮・中国 (in Japanese). Yōju Shorin 榕樹書林. pp. 166–175.