King of Ryukyu

  (Redirected from Genealogy of the Kings of Chūzan)

King of Ryūkyū[1][2] (琉球国王[3][4][5][6], Ryūkyū koku-ō), also known as King of Lew Chew,[7] King of Chūzan (中山王[8][9], Chūzan-ō), or more officially Ryūkyū Kingdom's King of Chūzan (琉球国中山王[8], Ryūkyū-koku Chūzan-ō), was a title held by several lineages from Okinawa Island until 1879. It effectively started in 1372 when Satto greeted a Chinese envoy from the newly established Ming Dynasty although his son Bunei was the first to be officially recognized as the King of Chūzan. However, the official Okinawan narrative traces the line of succession further back to the legendary ruler Shunten, who supposedly ascended to the throne in 1187. Another peculiar feature of the official Okinawan narrative is the notion of the single line of succession, instead of Chinese-style dynastic changes, even though they clearly recognized that several unrelated lineages had taken over the position.

King of Ryūkyū
Hidari gomon.svg
Royal Crest
Crown of the King of Ryūkyū
StyleYour Majesty (主上, 王上, 聖上)
Ushū (御主)
Miomae-ganashi (美御前加那志, used by royal family)
Shūri-ten-ganashi (首里天加那志, used in Okinawa Island)
Uchinaa-ganashi (沖縄加那志, used in outlying islands)
First monarchShunten (traditional narrative)
Last monarchShō Tai
Formation1187 (traditional date)
AbolitionMarch 17, 1879
ResidenceShuri Castle
Pretender(s)Mamoru Shō

Early forms of the narrativeEdit

The earliest known form of the narrative dates to the reign of King Shō Shin of the Second Shō Dynasty. A stone monument dated 1522 makes reference to "three dynasties of Shunten's, Eiso's and Satto's". His son King Shō Sei expressed the line of succession in a slightly more elaborate form. The Katanohana Inscription (1543) reads: "Shō Sei, King of Chūzan of the Great State of Ryūkyū, ascended to the throne as the 21st king since Sonton [Shunten]" (大りうきう国中山王尚清ハ、そんとんよりこのかた二十一代の御くらひをつきめしよわちへ). Similarly, another stone monument dated 1597 states that Shō Nei is the 24th king since Sonton [Shunten] (しやうねいハそんとんよりこのかた二十四たいのわうの御くらゐ...). The numbers of kings mentioned in these monuments agree with those of the official history books compiled much later although it is not clear whether the individual members were fixed at this stage.[10]

Historian Dana Masayuki relates the notion of the line of succession to Buddhist temples where ancestral tablets of the deceased kings were stored. According to the Chūzan Seifu, Manju-ji stored the ancestral tablets of Satto, Bunei, Shishō and Shō Hashi, while the tablets of Shō Taikyū and Shō Toku were at Tenkai-ji. Shō En, the founder of the Second Shō Dynasty, established Tennō-ji and designated it as the family mausoleum. It is not certain which temples were dedicated to the missing kings of the First Shō Dynasty, Shō Chū, Shō Shitatsu, and Shō Kinpuku. Nevertheless, each king performed "ancestral" worship for deceased kings from different dynasties in the presence of a Chinese envoy, presumably because they deceived the Chinese into thinking that the throne was normally succeeded from the father to the son.[11]

According to the Ryūkyū-koku yuraiki (1713), Ryūfuku-ji in Urasoe, in addition to the above-mentioned temples, served as the royal mausoleum. This temple stored inkstone tablets representing the deceased kings from Shunten to Shō Hashi. According to the Chūzan Seifu, Ryūfuku-ji was originally founded by Eiso under the name of Gokuraku-ji and was re-established by Shō En. Dana Masayuki surmises that Gokuraku-ji used to serve not only as the family mausoleum of Eiso Dynasty but as the state mausoleum tracing the royal line back to Shunten. The apparent conflict between Manju-ji and Gokuraku-ji is resolved if Manju-ji is seen as a representation of the state in relation to China while Gokuraku-ji was the manifestation of Okinawa's own narrative.[11]

Shō Shin established Enkaku-ji and transferred the function of the family mausoleum from Tennō-ji to Enkaku-ji. Shō Shin founded another temple named Sōgen-ji and decided to use it as the state mausoleum while the function of Enkaku-ji was clarified as the mausoleum of the Second Shō Dynasty. He moved all ancestral tablets, starting from Shunten, to Sōgen-ji and thereby visualized the single line of succession based on Okinawa's own narrative.[11]

Minamoto no Tametomo as the father of ShuntenEdit

Minamoto no Tametomo (1139–1170), the uncle of the Kamakura shogunate's founder Minamoto no Yoritomo, has been consistently treated as the father of Shunten since the earliest official history book, the Chūzan Seikan (1650). The earliest known association of Tametomo with Ryūkyū can be found in a letter written by a Zen monk in Kyoto named Gesshū Jukei (1470–1533) with a request by Kakuō Chisen, another Zen monk serving to Ryūkyū's Tennō-ji. According to a tale which Gesshū attributed to Kakuō, Tametomo moved to Ryūkyū, used demons as servants, and became the founder of the state, which the Minamoto clan had ruled since then. The reference to demons may reflect the centuries-old Japanese Buddhist perception of Ryūkyū as the land of man-eating demons, as seen in, for example, the Hyōtō Ryūkyū-koku ki (1244). Although at this stage, Tametomo was not explicitly associated with Shunten, the tale apparently circulated in the network of Zen Buddhists connecting Kyoto to Okinawa. A similar tale was recorded in the Ryūkyū Shintō-ki (1606) by Jōdo-shū monk Taichū, who visited Ryūkyū from 1603 to 1606. This indicates that by that time, the tale of Tametomo had been known to non-Zen Buddhists. In light of these, the apparent innovation of the Chūzan Seikan (1650) was the explicit association of Tametomo with Shunten.[12]

The tale of Tametomo had a profound impact on Ryūkyū's self-perception. In 1691, for example, the king ordered all the male members of the royal family to use the kanji Chō (朝) as the first of their two-character given names, presumably to indicate an affinity to Minamoto no Tametomo (源為).[12]

Association of the foundation myth with the royal lineEdit

Another innovation of the Chūzan Seikan (1650) was the association of the foundation myth with the royal line. The foundation myth concerning the goddess Amamikyu itself was recorded in the Ryūkyū Shintō-ki (1606). However, the Chūzan Seikan was the first to make reference to the Tenson-shi (天孫氏), who supposedly descended from the goddess.[11]

Without showing a clear genealogy, the official history books connect the Tenson Dynasty remotely to Eiso Dynasty. Eiso's mother dreamed that the sun intruded into her bosom, giving a miraculous birth to Eiso, but Eiso's foster father was said to have descended from the Tenson Dynasty. Similarly, Satto was said to have been mothered by a swan maiden. Shō En was believed to have descended from Gihon of Shunten Dynasty (i.e., the second Shō family originated from the Minamoto clan), or some other king. It is not clear why the Chūzan Seikan did not provided a special link to the first Shō Dynasty.[11]

Official narrativeEdit

Tenson DynastyEdit

The founder of the Tenson Dynasty[13] was a descendant of Amamikyu (阿摩美久, the goddess of creation). The 25 generations of the Tenson Dynasty ruled the land for 17,802 years, but their names are unknown.

Shunten DynastyEdit

The Shunten Dynasty lasted from AD 1187 to AD 1259.[14] In 1186, the 25th ruler's throne was usurped by Riyū. Minamoto no Tametomo's son Shunten overthrew Riyū the next year, becoming the king.

Name Kanji Divine name[15] Reign Age at death
Shunten 舜天 Sonton
1187–1237 71
Shunbajunki 舜馬順煕 Sonomasu 其益
Sonomasumi 其益美
1238–1248 63
Gihon 義本 Unknown 1249–1259 ?

Eiso DynastyEdit

The Eiso Dynasty lasted from AD 1260 to AD 1349.[13] In 1259, Gihon, who was the last king of Shunten Dynasty, abdicated his throne. Fathered by the sun, Eiso succeeded him. During the reign of Tamagusuku, the state was divided into three polities. The King of Nanzan (Sannan) and the King of Hokuzan (Sanhoku) came to compete with the King of Chūzan.

Name Kanji Divine name[15] Reign Age at death
Eiso 英祖 Wezo-no-tedako
1260–1299 70
Taisei 大成 Unknown 1300–1308 9 or 61
Eiji 英慈 Unknown 1309–1313 45
Tamagusuku 玉城 Unknown 1314–1336 40
Seii 西威 Unknown 1337–1354 21

Satto DynastyEdit

The Satto Dynasty lasted from AD 1350 to AD 1405.[13] Satto, the son of a peasant and a swan maiden, replaced Seii as the King of Chūzan. Satto started a tributary relation to the Ming emperor.

Name Kanji Divine name[15] Reign Age at death
Satto 察度 Oho-mamono
1355–1397 74
Bunei 武寧 Naga-no-mamono
1398–1406 50

First Shō DynastyEdit

The First Shō Dynasty lasted from AD 1429 to AD 1469.[16]Shō Hashi, the virtual founder of the First Shō Dynasty, overthrew Bunei in 1406. He installed his father Shō Shishō as the nominal King of Chūzan. Shō Hashi annihilated the King of Hokuzan (Sanhoku) in 1416. In 1421, after the death of his father, Shō Hashi became the King of Chūzan. He overthrew the King of Nanzan (Sannan) until 1429, unifying the island. The surname Shō (尚) was given by the Ming emperor.[17]

Name Kanji Divine name[15] Reign Age at death
Shō Shishō 尚思紹 Kimishi-mamono
1407–1421 67
Shō Hashi 尚巴志 Sejitaka-mamono
1422–1439 67
Shō Chū 尚忠 Unknown 1440–1442 54
Shō Shitatsu 尚思達 Kimiteda
1443–1449 41
Shō Kinpuku 尚金福 Kimishi
1450–1453 55
Shō Taikyū 尚泰久 Nanojiyomoi 那之志与茂伊
also called
Oho-yononushi 大世主
1454–1460 45
Shō Toku 尚徳 Hachiman-no-aji 八幡之按司
also called
Setaka-ō 世高王
1461–1469 29

Second Shō DynastyEdit

The Second Shō Dynasty lasted from AD 1470 to AD 1879.[16] When Shō Toku, the last king of the first Shō Dynasty, died in 1469, courtiers launched a coup d'état and elected Shō En as king. He became the founder of the Second Shō Dynasty. The kingdom was at its peak during the reign of his son, Shō Shin. In 1609, Satsuma Domain conquered the Ryukyu Kingdom. From then on, Ryūkyū was a vassal state of Satsuma Domain while the king was ordered to keep its tributary relation with China. The kingdom became a domain of Japan in 1872. In 1879, Japan replaced Ryūkyū Domain with Okinawa Prefecture, formally annexing the islands. King Shō Tai was dethroned and later given the title of marquis.

Name Kanji Divine name[15] Warabi-naa Nanui Reign Age at death
Shō En 尚円 Kanamaru-aji-sohesuwetsugiwaunise
- 1470–1476 61
Shō Sen'i 尚宣威 Nishi no yononushi
? - 1477 48
Shō Shin 尚真 Ogiyakamowi
- 1477–1526 61
Shō Sei 尚清 Tenitsugi-no-ajisohe
- 1527–1555 59
Shō Gen 尚元 Tedahajime-ajisohe
- 1556–1572 44
Shō Ei 尚永 Wezoniyasuhe-ajisohe 英祖仁耶添按司添
also called
Tedahokori-ō 日豊操王
or Tedayomutori-ō 日豊操王
? - 1573–1586 30
Shō Nei 尚寧 Tedagasuhe-ajisohe
- 1587–1620 56
Shō Hō 尚豊 Tenigiyasuhe-ajisohe
1621–1640 50
Shō Ken 尚賢 - Umimatsugani
? 1641–1647 23
Shō Shitsu 尚質 - Umitukugani
? 1648–1668 39
Shō Tei 尚貞 - Umigurugani
1669–1709 64
Shō Eki 尚益 - Umigurugani
? 1710–1712 34
Shō Kei 尚敬 - Umitukugani
1713–1751 52
Shō Boku 尚穆 - Umigurugani
1752–1795 55
Shō On 尚温 - Umigurugani
1796–1802 18
Shō Sei 尚成 - Umitukugani
- 1803 3
Shō Kō 尚灝 - Umijirugani
1804–1828 47
Shō Iku 尚育 - Umitukugani
1829–1847 34
Shō Tai 尚泰 - Umijirugani
1848–1879 58

Honored as king posthumouslyEdit

Name Kanji Warabi-naa Nanui Father of Notes
Shō Shoku 尚稷 ? - Shō En, Shō Sen'i posthumously honored as king in 1699
stripped in 1719
Shō I 尚懿 Umitarugani
Shō Nei posthumously honored as king in 1699
stripped in 1719
Shō Kyū 尚久 Masanrugani
Shō Hō posthumously honored as king in 1699
stripped in 1719
Shō Jun 尚純 Umitukugani
? Shō Eki Crown Prince before being able to succeed to the throne
Shō Tetsu 尚哲 Umitukugani
? Shō On, Shō Kō Crown Prince before being able to succeed to the throne


  1. ^ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 4. Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc. p. 363. ISBN 9780852294000. In 1872 the Meiji government conferred on the last king of Ryukyu, Sho Tai, the title of vassal king, and in the following year took over the island's foreign affairs.
  2. ^ Japan in the Muromachi Age. East Asia Program, Cornell University. 2001. p. 173. ISBN 9781885445094. In 1508 Shimazu sent a letter to the king of Ryukyu
  3. ^ 中山世鑑 琉球國中山王世繼總論 (in Chinese). 尚巴志及父 尚思紹係追封且賜之以冠服綵幣等物 琉球國王尚姓此始
  4. ^ 中山世譜 巻九 (in Chinese). 琉球國王。遣毛文和等。賚捧表文方物。
  5. ^ 清實錄 聖祖仁皇帝實錄 卷之一百四 (in Chinese). 琉球國王。御書中山世土四大字
  6. ^ 通航一覧 巻之五 (in Japanese). 正保元年七月三日、琉球国王之使者上下七十人なり、社参として当地発足、赴日光山云々、松平薩摩守所令同道也
  7. ^ United States Congressional Serial Set. 1672. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1876. p. 313. The latter country claims sovereignty over the islands, and the so-called King of Lew Chew is said to be now in Japan, the guest of the Mikado, whose superior authority, I am told, he recognizes.
  8. ^ a b 清實錄 世祖章皇帝實錄 卷之八十五 (in Chinese). 齎敕印。封琉球國中山王世子尚質。為中山王
  9. ^ 通航一覧 巻之三 (in Japanese). 慶長十五年五月十六日、家久中山王を率ゐて鹿児島を発し、八月六日駿府に参着す
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c d e Dana Masayuki 田名真之 (2008). "Ryūkyū ōken no keifu ishiki to Minamoto no Tametomo torai denshō" 琉球王権の系譜意識と源為朝渡来伝承 [Ryuyuan Royal Succession Ideology and The Minamoto Temetomo Legend]. In Kyūshū shigaku kenkyūkai 九州史学研究会 (ed.). Kyōkai no aidentiti 境界のアイデンティティ (in Japanese). Iwata Shoin 岩田書院. pp. 181–196.
  12. ^ a b Ikemyia Masaharu 池宮正治 (2015). "Rekishi to setsuwa no aida: Katarareru rekishi" 歴史と説話の間: 語られる歴史. Ryūkyū-shi bunka ron 琉球史文化論 (in Japanese). Kasama Shoin 笠間書院. pp. 23–52.
  13. ^ a b c Richard Pearson (2013). Ancient Ryukyu: An Archaeological Study of Island Communities. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824865894. The victorious Ryukyu Kingdom compiled the Chūzan seikan as its history in the seventeenth century AD, outlining a succession of three early dynasties (Haneji 1983). These were the Tenson Dynasty, the Eiso Dynasty (AD 1260 to 1349), and the Satto Dynasty (AD 1350 to 1405).
  14. ^ Ryukyu Islands (United States Civil Administration, 1950-1972). Shōgai Hōdōkyoku 琉球列島米国民政府涉外報道局 (1970). "守礼の光". 守礼の光 (2–12). In reviewing history, it can be noted that there was political turmoil in th Ryukyus in the 1250's during the reign of King Gihon, the last king of the Shunten Dynasty. In the 1350's the Eiso Dynasty was overturned and Urasoe Anji Satto became the new King of the Ryukyus
  15. ^ a b c d e 琉球国王の神号と『おもろさうし』
  16. ^ a b 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 requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Tokyo: Tuttle, 2000. p. 89.


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