Chinese investiture envoys

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The Chinese investiture envoys ceremony at Shuri castle, as depicted in a 1788 handscroll painting by Yamaguchi Suiô, based on images in the Zhongshan chuanxin lu by Xu Baoguang. Sakamaki-Hawley Collection, Univ. of Hawaii Library.
  • Other Names: 天使 (C: tiān-shǐ)[1]
  • Japanese/Chinese: 冊封使 (sappoushi / cèfēngshǐ)

Chinese investiture envoys were diplomatic missions sent by Ming and Qing China to the Kingdom of Ryûkyû to perform investiture rituals, officially confirming the king of Ryûkyû in the eyes of the Chinese Imperial Court, and confirming his position as a tributary subordinate to the Chinese Emperor within the Sinocentric system of diplomatic relations.

Ryûkyû was the only kingdom to receive such missions. The investiture of the kings of other tributary nations, such as Korea and Vietnam, was conducted within China, with royal ambassadors being granted the investiture by proxy, on behalf of their king.


Satto became, in 1372, the first Ryukyuan king to submit to Chinese suzerainty[2]. Beginning with the investiture of Satto's successor, Bunei, in 1404[3], twenty-two such missions traveled to Ryûkyû in total[4], the last in 1866, for the investiture of Shô Tai[5].

Though the investiture missions were conducted within an ideology of Ryukyuan submission to Chinese centrality and superiority, the kingdom actually enjoyed a fair degree of agency and authority in determining when investiture missions would be requested, and whether they would in fact be accepted. Envoy Chen Kan's Shi-liuqiu-lu indicates that the Ryukyuans were entitled to simply refuse to receive investiture envoys at the port, if something were against precedent or protocol. When Shô Nei came to the throne in 1587, Ryukyuan requests for investiture came in the 1590s, coinciding with Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea; concerned about the dangers of "pirates," possibly code or conflation for Hideyoshi's forces, the Ming hesitated to send a full mission. The Ming Court suggested either holding an investiture ceremony by proxy with Ryukyuan envoys at Fuzhou, or sending a small military contingent to perform the ceremony in Ryûkyû. The Ryukyuan Court protested, however, and petitioned that a civil official be sent at the head of a full investiture mission entourage, as according to precedent and protocol; eventually, the Ming relented and sent a full and proper investiture mission in 1606, headed by Xia Ziyang. That Ryûkyû refused the smaller mission, which would have been far less expensive to receive and to host, and yet which would have still allowed them to maintain their tributary relationship, opting instead for the more expensive mission, would seem to suggest that it was the mission itself, the ritual, the pomp, and the prestige derived from these, and not only the economic benefits of the tribute trade, which were valued and desired by the kingdom.[6]

The Ming Dynasty capital of Beijing fell to Manchu invaders in 1644, marking the beginning of Qing Dynasty control of China; Ming loyalists continued to hold out in southern China and Taiwan, however, for several decades. Several received Ryukyuan envoys; Kin Ôgen headed a mission which reported the death of King Shô Hô to the Southern Ming (pretender) Hongguang Emperor at Nanjing in 1644, requesting investiture (qiefeng) for King Shô Ken. Mô Daiyô then led a mission congratulating (qinghe) Hongguang on his accession; Hongguang fell the following year. The Prince of Tang then rose to power, claiming himself as the Longwu Emperor. A Ryukyuan mission led by Mô Taikyû met with him at Fuzhou, to offer congratulations (qinghe); while Mô and his party were there, however, Fuzhou fell to Qing forces led by the Manchu Prince Bolo. The Ryukyuans traveled to Beijing twice to formally request investiture from the Shunzhi Emperor, but the Emperor along with the Board of Rites refused to grant investiture until Ryûkyû returned the royal seal granted the kingdom by the Ming, thus proving they were severing their loyalty to the Ming and would no longer engage with or support loyalists and pretenders.[7]

For a time, King Shô Ken maintained the kingdom's allegiance to, and relations with, the Ming, in part because of pragmatic economic concerns, namely Ming willingness to resume the raw silk trade. Chinese envoy & interpreter Xie Bizhen traveled alongside Ryukyuan representatives within China, and to & from Ryûkyû, numerous times, attempting to convince the kingdom to sever its ties with the Ming loyalists, and enter into relations with the Qing Dynasty.

Shô Ken was succeeded by his younger brother, Shô Shitsu following the former's death in 1647, and King Shô Shitsu was eventually convinced to send a delegation to Beijing. In 1651/9, The Ryukyuan envoys, Ma Zongyi and Cai Zuolong, were sent to congratulate the Shunzhi Emperor on his recent enthronement, to hand over the king's Ming stamp and Imperial Rescript, and to request a new stamp and rescript from the Qing. The new seal and rescript were finally granted to Ryûkyû on 1654/6/15, with the first formal tribute mission from Ryûkyû to Qing taking place the previous year.[8]

It is said, however, that Shô Shitsu did not at that time request investiture from the Qing, nor desire that a Qing embassy should come to Ryûkyû. A Qing embassy was commissioned in to journey to Ryûkyû anyway, in 1654, in order to clarify Ryûkyû's position under Qing authority. The embassy, led by Zhang Xueli and Wang Gai, traveled to Fuzhou along with Xie Bizhen, Ma Zongyi, and Cai Zuolong, but was unable to proceed to Ryûkyû, blocked by the naval forces of Zheng Chenggong (Coxinga), leader of the Ming loyalists on Taiwan.

The Shunzhi Emperor died in 1661 and was succeeded by the Kangxi Emperor, who ordered Zhang and Wang to journey to Ryûkyû to perform the official investiture rituals, and to present Shô Shitsu with a new Qing Imperial rescript. The two arrived in Naha in 1663 along with Cai Zuolong and Xie Bizhen (Ma Zongyi had died in 1659), surprising Ryukyuan officials, who had not requested investiture, and who had not been informed to expect the Chinese envoys' arrival. Furthermore, Shuri castle had been destroyed by a fire in 1660, and so Ryûkyû was especially unprepared to formally receive these Chinese envoys. Nevertheless, the investiture went forward, and the system or tradition of Chinese investiture envoys being sent to Ryûkyû was re-established.[9]

Throughout the rest of the period, down to the 19th century, the Qing sent investiture envoys of higher rank than the Ming had sent; some scholars interpret this to be a sign of the Qing placing even greater importance on the relationship with Ryûkyû than the Ming did.[8]

During both the 1719 and 1756 missions, embarrassing and damaging disputes broke out between Ryukyuan officials and members of the Chinese missions (mainly Fuzhou sailors and merchants who had come along in order to trade), concerning the amount of goods members of the mission had brought to Ryûkyû, the prices Ryûkyû was willing or able to spend to purchase those goods, and similar or related matters. (See below for some further details on these incidents.) A number of steps were then taken in the early 19th century in an effort to ensure that similar incidents would not occur again; these included increased efforts to examine the character of the servants, sailors, and merchants who were to serve as members of the missions, and enhanced regulations or enforcement of the amount of personal goods each member of the mission could bring with them to trade.[10]


Upon the death of the King of Ryûkyû, the kingdom sent an emissary to Fuzhou to formally report the sovereign's death. This type of mission was called bào sāng (報喪) in Chinese; another mission would be sent a few years later to formally request investiture (請封, qǐng fēng).[11] Following the 1609 invasion of Ryukyu, beginning with the succession of Shô Hô, Satsuma han also had to be notified and asked for approval and confirmation of the new king[12].

It took several years for the Ryukyuan government to prepare to receive a Chinese investiture mission, an undertaking which was quite expensive for the small kingdom, and for which the Chinese government contributed not at all. Seven officials from the Kumemura community, known collectively as the shiô shichishi (支応七司), were selected to aid in the reception of the investiture envoys. They included: a kanmushi (館務司) who oversaw various matters at the Tenshikan; a shôôsho (承応所) in charge of upkeep and supplies; a shôseisho (掌牲所) who took care of sheep, pigs, chickens, and ducks; a kyôôsho (供応所) who oversaw the provision of food, rice, saké, etc.; a rienshi (理宴司) who oversaw the royal banquets; an ofurumai-hô (御振廻方) who oversaw the reception (and in particular the food) for the envoys; a shokanshi (書簡司) in charge official documents; and a hangaahô (評価方) who oversaw the finances.[13]

When preparations were ready, Ryûkyû would send another emissary, to present the official request for investiture (請封, C: qǐng fēng). This would be accompanied by a formal document, signed or sealed by a great many Ryukyuan officials, from the highest posts down to local lords, acknowledging widespread recognition of this particular king as the rightful king, and declaring loyalty to the man to be invested. In addition to the members of the mission appointed by the Qing Court, the lead investiture envoys were also able to select and invite specialists of their choice, including physicians, scholars, and musicians, to accompany the mission.[14] Once the mission party was assembled, a Ryukyuan official would meet them (C: 接封 jiēfēng, or 接貢 jiēgòng) in Fuzhou[10]. All of these emissaries would travel with Ryukyuan tribute missions, and not on separate journeys in separate craft. In 1689, Ryûkyû requested, and was granted, permission to have the sekkôsen be tax exempt, in addition to the tribute vessels, and to have the total permitted size of missions increased from 150 to 200. This allowed the size of trade to increase as well.[15]

The envoys, known as tiān shǐ in Chinese (J: 天史, tenshi), were selected from a pool of nominees nominated by the Board of Rites, Grand Secretariat, Hanlin Academy, and Censorate. The roughly fifteen or so nominees would be presented to the Emperor, who would select a chief envoy and a vice-envoy from among them. The lead envoy was typically a Manchu, and the vice envoy Chinese.[16] As the investiture mission was one of formal ceremony and not one of diplomatic negotiations or foreign policy, diplomatic skill or experience was not a criterion for selection; envoys were generally chosen based on their formal classical education. Dressed and equipped with accoutrements far above their rank, the envoys were provided with a minimal amount of funds to support them on their journey. Local officials in Fuzhou saw to their accommodations there, and once in Ryûkyû, the burden was placed on the Ryukyuan government to pay for the envoys' food, shelter, entertainment, and other needs.[10] A Ryukyuan official known as omukae dayû (御迎大夫) met with the investiture envoys in Fuzhou, and escorted them on their journey to Ryûkyû.

The Envoys in Shuri

The Chinese envoys arrived in ships called ukwanshin (御冠船, lit. "Crown Ships") in Okinawan. These ships were often private merchant junks commandeered by the imperial court for this purpose, and transformed into official investiture ships simply by the addition of certain banners, medallions on the hull, etc.[17] Though Ming/Qing scholar-officials only traveled to Ryûkyû in an official capacity roughly once in a generation, the crews on these journeys were individuals who traveled frequently between Ryûkyû and the China coast, whether as merchants or as crews for Ryukyuan tribute vessels, and who were therefore well-familiar with the route and the difficulties it presented.[17]

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[18]; these would be accompanied by a number of merchant ships. During Japan's Edo period, an agent from Satsuma known as a kansen bugyô (冠船奉行, O: kwanshin bujô, "Investiture (Crown) Ships Magistrate") would be sent down to Ryûkyû 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 Ryûkyû from the Chinese[19]. A Ryukyuan office known as the hangaahô in Japanese (C: píngjiàsī), and based near the Tenshikan, set the prices of commodities imported in this way, and oversaw the purchases of the Chinese goods.[20]

Arriving in Shuri, the envoys generally stayed for four to eight months[4] at a residence known as the Tenshikan, and were extensively entertained by the Ryukyuan royal court. A number of structures built for this purpose (and reconstructed/restored in the late 20th century), including the Ryûtan pond and the Hokuden (North Hall) of Shuri Castle, 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[18], costing roughly 320,000 taels of silver, much of which often had to be borrwed from Satsuma.[21] The envoys were treated to seven formal banquets during their stay, during which there were extensive performances of music and dance within Shuri castle;[22] These seven banquets were as follows: a banquet of condolences for the passing of the previous king (諭祭の宴, J: yusai no en); a banquet of investiture (冊封の宴, J: sappô no en); banquets for Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋の宴, J: chûshû no en) and Chrysanthemum Festival (重陽の宴, J: chôyô no en); and banquets for the exchange of farewell gifts (餞別の宴, J: senbetsu no en), the envoys taking their leave (拝辞の宴, J: haiji no en), and upon their actual departure (望舟の宴, J: bôshû no en).[23]

In addition, senior officials and ministers visited the envoys once every five days, bringing them considerable amounts of food and other necessities.[10]

A "Minister of Dance" (O: udui bugyô) oversaw these entertainments; kumi odori, a traditional form of Ryukyuan dance-drama, was first created and performed for entertaining an investiture envoy and his fellows, in 1719[24]. In that year, the two dance-dramas Gosamaru Tichiuchi and Shûshin Kani'iri were debuted during the fourth banquet, following a series of eight Ryûkyû odori dances during the third banquet, many of which are still performed today in some closely related form. Japanese music and dance was also often performed for the Chinese envoys.[25]

During their stay in Ryûkyû, the Chinese emissaries performed two rituals: not only the investiture ritual (冊封, C: cè fēng, J: sakuhô, sappô), but also a ritual performed at Sôgen-ji recognizing the death of the former king as an "Imperial sacrifice" (諭祭先王, C: yùjì xiānwáng, J: yusai sen'ô)[10]. The ihai memorial tablet for the late former king would be placed out, along with offerings for his spirit, before which the new king would then perform a full kowtow (three kneelings, nine bows). The Ming or Qing lead and vice-envoys would then light incense in front of the memorial tablet and make an offering of liquor. Another Ming/Qing official would then read out a formal memorial statement, and then ritually burn the document. Finally, the heads of the investiture mission would perform a partial (one kneeling, three bows) kowtow toward the memorial tablet. This was followed by a formal banquet within the grounds of Sôgen-ji.[26] Through this ritual, the envoys formally recognized the prior king for his "civilized" acts and observance of the Confucian order, thus further reinforcing the virtuous, upright, civilized, character of the line of kings, and their recognition and approval from the Ming, source of civilization and thus of political legitimacy.[27]

The Investiture Ceremony

The investiture ceremony, as depicted in a model on display at Shuri castle

The investiture ceremony itself was a lengthy and extensive process. When first reenacted in 2004, it took nearly nine hours; since then, the organizers of such events have abbreviated the ceremony considerably, omitting many repetitive sections, such as the number of times that participants kowtow.[28] The ceremony reenacted today during Shuri Castle Festival (Shurijô matsuri) at the beginning of November each year is based on the 1800 investiture of King Shô On.[29]

The ceremony was traditionally performed in the central courtyard (O: unaa) of Shuri Castle, where a structure called kettei (闕庭) was erected to represent the Chinese Imperial Court. A temporary wooden structure ringed with yellow curtains, it had a table in the center called an "incense platform" (香案), with incense burners, candlesticks in the form of dragons, and metal flower ornaments atop it. Five smaller platforms behind it held the Imperial seal, formal letters of investiture, and gifts from the Emperor. Much of the ceremony took place either within or just in front of this structure.[30] At dawn on the day of the ceremony, the Imperial patent[31], Imperial edict of investiture, and Imperial gifts to the king and queen were placed in small portable pavilions. A group of Ryukyuan officials involved with the ceremony met the Chinese envoys at the Chûzanmon[27] (the second outer gate of the castle), kowtowed to the patent, edict, and Imperial gifts, and then led the envoys and these Imperial objects in procession to the unaa, a distance of about three miles (ten ri) from the Envoys' Residence, passing huge crowds of people who had turned out on the sides of the road to see the procession[10].

The use of temporary structures was not limited to the Ryukyuan case, for example because of the great distance from Beijing and the necessity of erecting something not normally used in Shuri; temporary structures were regularly erected in Beijing as well, for certain Imperial ceremonies and special occasions.[32]

The procession met the king and his top advisors at the Shureimon, the symbolic entrance to the castle grounds. The king, and all the officials of the royal government, arranged by rank, kowtowed to the objects held in the portable pavilions, an act symbolic of receiving the Chinese Emperor himself. The king then led the procession into the castle and to the unaa, where the objects were placed upon a table and flanked by the envoys, atop the raised platform, the king remaining below, at ground level[10]. The procession into the castle was accompanied by Ryukyuan rujigaku processional music, performed on suǒnà, horns, and a variety of gongs, chimes, and drums.[33]

After another kowtow and some music played by the Ryukyuan royal ensemble, the king knelt as the investiture edict was read. He then performed another kowtow, and the title of "king" (C: guó wáng; J: kokuô) was formally granted to him. Further kowtows accompanied the presentation of the Imperial gifts and of the Imperial patent and edict. Though Chinese custom dictated that the edict and patent be returned to the envoys afterward, Ryûkyû always requested to keep the objects as national heirlooms. The envoys' request to have them returned, Ryukyuan request to keep them, and granting of permission quickly became part of the investiture ritual. Before granting permission, the envoys also requested that the patents and edicts from previous investitures be shown to them[10]. Throughout the ceremony, uzagaku and/or suǒnà or flute music was played, halting whenever someone was to speak and then starting up again.[33]

A second temporary structure, called the sendokudai (宣読台), stood on the southern side of the unaa. Smaller and taller than the kettei but otherwise similar in design, the sendokudai contained a table with the same ritual implements upon it. The formal Imperial letter of investiture was read out from this platform.[30]

The investiture ceremony concluded with the envoys being led by the king on a tour of the castle, and by a mutual kowtow of farewell. Throughout, the king was swathed in formal Chinese costume gifted him by the Imperial Court (from the mid-17th century onwards, Ryûkyû produced its own Ming-style costume for this purpose; it was not provided by the Qing[34]). The formal outfit, or hibenfuku in Japanese (皮弁服), included a dragon robe, belt (J: sekitai), black silk shoes called kanku, ritual sword (J: chiyoganemaru), and black silk crown. The crown, called hibenkan in Japanese (皮弁冠; C: pí biàn guàn)[35], was made of a mixture of black tsumugi and bast fibers, which formed a sort of crepe, molded over a rigid frame and lined with jewels and gold decorations. The crown, visible in official Ryukyuan royal portraits, originally had nine ridges, but after 1756, it came to have twelve ridges, indicating a greater honorary rank for the king. An eleven-inch golden hairpin with a dragon motif was then stuck through the crown, which was additionally held on with red-orange braided tassels.[36] These formal garments, crown, and other accoutrements were provided by the Chinese envoys during the Ming Dynasty, but in the Qing Dynasty, the envoys would provide garments only, and the Ryukyuan Court had to provide the crown and other accoutrements itself.[37]

When not wearing this ceremonial investiture crown, the king, and certain officials, would often wear a Chinese court cap called usanmo in Japanese. Made of black silk, its round form enclosed the head, and had long, stiff wings which stuck out to either side.[36]

Originally, Ryukyuan kings were given robes of a lower rank, but later would be granted robes indicative of a rank equivalent to Imperial Prince. When the Ming dynasty fell and was replaced by the Manchu Qing dynasty, the Ryukyuans were permitted to maintain Ming costume, but were furthermore permitted to wear Ming costume only for the investiture ceremony itself; outside of the ceremony, even during the continued visit of the Chinese envoys, the Ryukyuan king and his officials were expected to wear Ryukyuan court costume.[36] By the 19th century, this Ming style of court dress, not seen in China for over a century and a half, became a considerable focus of curiosity and attention from the Chinese envoys[10].

After the formal ceremony, a reception was held in the Hokuden ("North Hall") of Shuri castle. The king exchanged cups of wine with the envoys, and shared a banquet. Uta-sanshin and uzagaku were performed as entertainments; the sanshin pieces included Kajadifu-bushi, unna bushi, and ten other songs, most of which remain standard in the classical repertoire today.[33]

Following the investiture, an emissary would journey to the Chinese capital, to formally express gratitude (謝恩, C: xiè ēn, J: shaon)[10].

Hiding the Japan Connection

There were no formal relations between China and Japan throughout the Edo period, and officials in both Ryûkyû and Satsuma feared that if Beijing knew of the nature of Ryûkyû's relationship with Satsuma, relations with Ryûkyû might be cut off as well - this would be devastating for both Satsuma's interests in Ryûkyû, and for Ryûkyû itself. As a result, considerable efforts were made to hide the Japanese presence whenever Chinese envoys visited Okinawa.

The Satsuma officials normally resident in Naha relocated temporarily to Gusukuma for the duration. Suspicious Chinese officials were sometimes taken to a different village, Makinato, to be shown that there were no Japanese being hidden there. Similarly, Japanese-language inscriptions on stone lanterns and elsewhere in public view were explained away by attributing them to trade connections between Ryûkyû and the Tokara Islands.[38]

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Chinese Court was well aware of the Satsuma connection, at least in general terms. There are numerous anecdotal examples of slip-ups in the deception, including Chinese officials noticing Japanese era names on Ryukyuan documents, bells, and other objects, and on at least one occasion, in 1719, the Chinese investiture envoy Xu Baoguang noticing a samurai official watching the investiture ceremony from behind a screen. Chinese merchants officially associated with Nagasaki but active in smuggling along the Satsuma coast may have been able to inform Chinese officials about the relationship as well.[39]

Though the early decades of the 17th century, on the heels of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea may have reasonably made Ming authorities concerned about Japanese expansionism through the Ryukyus, the Qing seem to have had no such concerns. Satisfied with Ryûkyû's regular shows of loyalty, and Ryûkyû's embrace of Confucian/Chinese high culture, the Qing may have even seen Japan's reliance on Chinese goods (as obtained through Ryûkyû) as a form of tacit submission, or at least dependency. Thus, the Qing, at least tacitly, tolerated Ryûkyû's relationship with Satsuma.[39]

Timeline of Missions

  • 1404 - First investiture mission, led by Shí Zhōng, arrives for the investiture of Bunei[3].
  • 1633 - A mission led by Du Sance and Yang Lun[41] invests King Shô Hô. This is the first investiture mission since the 1609 invasion, and the last sent by the Ming Dynasty.[42]
  • 1654 - A mission led by Zhang Xueli and Wang Gai is organized, to travel to Ryûkyû, to discuss Ryûkyû's position under Qing authority; the mission does not make it to Ryûkyû, however, being blocked by Ming loyalists.
  • 1663 - Zhang Xueli and Wang Gai lead the first investiture mission sent by the Qing Court, re-establishing the tradition after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Shô Shitsu is invested as king. Qing music is taught to members of the court; the performance of Qing music at the Ryukyuan court is traced to this occasion.[43]
  • 1683 - Shô Tei is invested as king. Wang Ji (1636-1699) leads the mission.
A dispute breaks out between the Chinese party, led by Hai Bao and Xu Baoguang, and the Ryukyuan officials, led by Sai On and Tei Junsoku. The kingdom had gathered only 500 kan of silver to purchase goods brought from China for trade, but the mission unexpectedly brought 2,000 kan worth of goods, including jades, spices, porcelains, clocks, antiques, and scrolls of calligraphy and painting by famous artists of the Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties. In the end, Sai On negotiated a settlement, paying 600 kan for all of the goods[10]. This occurred in part because the 1719 mission included 600 additional people, including cartographers who set out to map the archipelago;[21] the extra people brought extra goods to trade, and when they were unable to sell everything they had brought, the entire mission arranged to stay in Ryûkyû an extra three and a half months, imposing even greater financial strain upon the kingdom.[10]
  • 1756-1757 - Quan Kui and Zhou Huang (d. 1785) lead the mission for the investiture of King Shô Boku, as Senior Envoy and Deputy Envoy respectively. During his time in Shuri, Chou Huang compiles the Ryûkyû-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[44].
On the way to Ryûkyû, after departing Fuzou, the two lead investiture vessels are wrecked in a storm, and the envoys and their close attendants nearly drown. The ship carrying the lead envoys runs aground on rocks near Kumejima, and the passengers are rescued by Ryûkyû. The other ship, meanwhile, gets pushed back to Zhejiang; its occupants then make their way overland to Fuzhou, secure a new ship, and arrive in Naha in the winter.[10]
Quarrels started by some members of the embassy, and excessive forcefulness in attempts to force trade, lead to the execution, beating, and banishment of several members of the embassy, and the stripping of Chou Huang of his title (though not his post). A gift of 50,000 ounces of silver by the king, in compensation for the losses in the shipwreck, is returned by order of the Qianlong Emperor[10].
  • 1800 - The investiture mission, consisting of some 504 people in total,[45] is led by Zhao Wenkai and Li Dingyuan and is held during a period of national mourning following the death of the Qianlong Emperor. The seven banquets traditionally held for the envoys are skipped, private trade is discouraged by the lead envoys, and an offer by the king of 10,000 ounces of silver in gratitude is declined by the envoys[10]. Ryukyuan officials surprise Li with gifts on the occasion of his mother's birthday.[46] In light of the events of the previous two missions, extra precautions are taken to discourage or prevent disputes or disturbances.[10]
On the return from Ryukyu, the mission is attacked by pirates, and endures a great storm. They survive, and return to China safely, but Zhao is said to have been significantly weakened by the harrowing experience; he died four years later.[10]
  • 1808 - The mission is led by Zhao Wenkai.
  • 1836 - The Daoguang Emperor issues an edict explicitly forbidding any members of the embassy to bring goods to Ryûkyû with the intent of engaging in trade.
  • 1866 - Final investiture envoys, led by Zhao Xin, arrive for the investiture of Shô Tai[5].


  • Angela Schottenhammer, "The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges - China and her neighbors." in Schottenhammer (ed.) The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007. pp45ff.
  • Angela Schottenhammer, “Empire and Periphery? The Qing Empire’s Relations with Japan and the Ryūkyūs (1644–c. 1800), a Comparison.” The Medieval History Journal 16, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 139-196.
  1. lit. "Heavenly envoys," i.e. ambassadors from the Son of Heaven, i.e. the Chinese Emperor.
  2. Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. (revised ed.) Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p65.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ryûkyû shisetsu, Edo he iku! 琉球使節、江戸へ行く!, Okinawa Prefectural Museum (2009), 47.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Sappôshi." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia"). 1 March 2003. Accessed 7 November 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kerr. p352.
  6. Chan, Ying Kit. “A Bridge between Myriad Lands: The Ryukyu Kingdom and Ming China (1372-1526).” Thesis, National University of Singapore, 2010, 42-43.
  7. Schottenhammer, "Empire and Periphery?", 176-178.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Schottenhammer, "Empire and Periphery?", 179.
  9. Nishizato Kikô. "The Problem of Royal Investiture during the Ming-Qing Transition Period." Abstract. Paper presented at 5th International Conference on Okinawan Studies, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, September 2006.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 10.15 10.16 Ch'en, Ta-Tuan. "Investiture of Liu-Ch'iu Kings in the Ch'ing Period." in Fairbank, John King (ed.) The Chinese World Order. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. pp135-164.
  11. Schottenhammer, "Empire and Periphery?", 176.
  12. Kerr. p185.
  13. Gallery labels, "Kuninda - Ryûkyû to Chûgoku no kakehashi," special exhibit, Okinawa Prefectural Museum, Sept 2014. The hangahô was known in Chinese documents as 評價司, píngjià sī
  14. Liao Zhenpei 廖真珮, "Ryûkyû kyûtei ni okeru Chûgoku kei ongaku no ensô to denshô" 琉球宮廷における中国系音楽の演奏と伝承, in Uzagaku no fukugen ni mukete 御座楽の復元に向けて, Naha, Okinawa: Uzagaku fukugen ensô kenkyûkai 御座楽復元演奏研究会 (2007), 109.
  15. This came after the Dutch received similar privileges in 1686. Schottenhammer, 181-182.
  16. Akazaki Kaimon 赤崎海門, Ryûkaku danki 「琉客談記」 1796, reprinted in Shiseki shûran 「史籍集覧」, vol 16, Kyoto: Rinsen shoten (1996), 629.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Richard Pegg, "For the Record: Chinese Conferment Missions to Ryukyu from 1372-1866," talk given at Okinawan Art in its Regional Context: Historical Overview and Contemporary Practice symposium, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 10 Oct 2019.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Kerr. p181.
  19. Matsuda, Mitsugu. The Government of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, 1609-1872. Gushikawa: Yui Publishing, Co., 2001. pp46-47.
  20. Schottenhammer, "East Asian Maritime World," 45.; Schottenhammer, "Empire and Periphery?", 175n98.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Schottenhammer, "East Asian Maritime World," 46.
  22. Liao, 100.
  23. Chia-Ying Yeh, "The Revival and Restoration of Ryukyuan Court Music, Uzagaku: Classification and Performance Techniques, Language Usage, and Transmission," PhD thesis, University of Sheffield (2018), 63.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Foley, Kathy. "Kumi Odori's Historical Context and Performance Practice." in Ryukyu Geino: The Legacy of Kin Ryosho. Jimpu Kai USA Kin Ryosho Ryukyu Geino Kenkyusho Hawaii Shibu, 2008. pp45-56.
  25. Miyagi Eishô, Ryûkyû shisha no Edo nobori, Tokyo: Daiichi shobô (1982), 131-132.
  26. "Sappôshi kankei chôsai ni tsuite"「冊封使関係調査について」, Fee nu kaji 南ぬ風 5 (2007/10-12), 14.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Chan, Ying Kit, 39.
  28. Yeh, 64.
  29. Yeh, 69.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Plaques on-site at Shuri castle.[1][2]
  31. For a brief overview of Chinese Imperial patents, see this page at the official website of the National Palace Museum, Beijing.
  32. Murakami Masakazu 村上正和, "18 seiki Pekin no gyôretsu to shukuten" 十八世紀北京の行列と祝典, in Kurushima Hiroshi (ed.), Egakareta gyôretsu 描かれた行列, University of Tokyo Press (2015), 350-351.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Kaneshiro Atsumi 金城厚, “Ryūkyū no gaikō girei ni okeru gakki ensō no imi” 「琉球の外交儀礼における楽器演奏の意味」, Musa ムーサ 14 (2013), 58-59.
  34. Watanabe Miki, "Ryûkyû kara mita Shinchô" 琉球から見た清朝, in Okada Hidehiro (ed.), Shinchô to ha nani ka 清朝とは何か, Fujiwara Shoten (2009), 256.
  35. Garrett, Valery. Chinese Clothing: An Illustrated Guide. Oxford University Press, 1994. pp5-6.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, Volume 6: East Asia. Oxford University Press, 2010. p422.
  37. Tomiyama Kazuyuki 豊見山和行, "Edo nobori kara Edo dachi he - Ryûkyû shisetsu zô no tenkai" 「江戸上り」から「江戸立」へー琉球使節像の転回, in Ryûkyû shisetsu, Edo he iku! 琉球使節、江戸へ行く!, Okinawa Prefectural Museum (2009), 60.
  38. Matsuda Mitsugu, The Government of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, 1609-1872, Yui Publishing (2001), 60n34.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Schottenhammer, "Empire and Periphery?", 182-183.
  40. Thompson, Robin. "The Music of Ryukyu." Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. p311.
  41. Tomiyama Kazuyuki, Ryûkyû ôkoku no gaikô to ôken, Yoshikawa Kôbunkan (2004), 121.
  42. Miyagi Eishô 宮城栄昌, Ryûkyû shisha no Edo nobori 琉球使者の江戸上り, Tokyo: Daiichi Shobô (1982), 24.
  43. Dana Masayuki 田名真之, "Bunken shiryô ni mieru uzagaku" “文献資料に見る御座楽,” in Uzagaku no fukugen ni mukete, p8.
  44. Hirata, Tsugumasa (trans.). Chou, Huang. Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku. Tokyo: San-ichi Shobô, 1977. pp1-2.
  45. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 241.
  46. Gregory Smits, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.