36 Min families

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  • Japanese: 久米三十六姓 (Kume sanjuuroku sei)

The Ryukyuan community of Kumemura, and the scholar-bureaucrat aristocracy that was historically based there, trace their origins to a supposed group of 36 families (戸, C: )[1] of the southern Chinese Min (閩) ethnic group who traveled to Okinawa from Fujian province and settled there in 1392, establishing the community of Kumemura. Some scholars, however, identify the 36 Min families as a myth, arguing that instead the influx of Chinese immigrants into Ryûkyû in the 14th century was a more complex and gradual process, involving some greater number of immigrants coming to the islands across a wider span of time.[2]

The Chinese immigrants who eventually founded Kumemura came from Fuzhou, Quanzhou, and Zhuangzhou, among other places, and were likely chiefly commoners, mostly shipbuilders and navigators. But an aristocracy grounded in the Confucian classics and based on the model of the Chinese system of scholar-bureaucrats grew out of their community. They are believed to have also introduced to Okinawa the sanxian, a musical instrument out of which the Okinawan sanshin would later develop.[3]

Though these Chinese immigrants intermarried and culturally assimilated to a considerable degree, their Min blood surely becoming considerably diluted down through the generations, the members of the Kumemura aristocracy continued throughout the early modern period (1609-1879) to be considered at least partially Chinese - that is, at least partially ethnically/racially/culturally different from other Ryukyuans.

A group claiming descent from these Min immigrants formed the Kume Sôseikei in 1914, and continue to oversee the two Confucian temples in Kume today, as well as running a variety of community events and projects, including publishing a journal of scholarly articles on Kume history.[4]


  • Uezato Takashi. "The Formation of the Port City of Naha in Ryukyu and the World of Maritime Asia: From the Perspective of a Japanese Network." Acta Asiatica 95 (2008). pp57-77.
  • Gallery labels, "Kuninda - Ryûkyû to Chûgoku no kakehashi," special exhibit, Okinawa Prefectural Museum, Sept 2014.
  1. Shunzo Sakamaki, "On Early Ryukyuan Names," in Sakamaki (ed.), Ryukyuan Names (Honolulu: East-West Center, 1964), 14.
  2. Gregory Smits, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.
  3. Thompson, Robin. "The Sanshin and its Place in Okinawan Music." Okinawa bijutsu zenshû 沖縄美術全集. vol. 5. pp. ii-iii.
  4. "Mortuary tablet of Confucius returns to Kume after 69 years," Ryukyu Shimpo, 16 June 2013.