Chuzan denshin roku

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A copy of a Japanese woodblock-printed edition of the Chûzan denshin roku, on display at the National Museum of Japanese History.
  • Author: Xu Baoguang
  • Date: 1721
  • Chinese/Japanese: 中山伝信録 (Zhōngshān chuán xìn lù / Chuuzan denshin roku)

Zhōngshān chuán xìn lù (J: chûzan denshin roku) is an account of Ryukyuan history, politics, topography, language, and customs written by Chinese investiture envoy Xu Baoguang, based on his journey to Ryûkyû in 1719. The volume was republished numerous times in Japan, and became one of the most widely read, and widely regarded, sources on the Ryûkyû Kingdom; numerous Chinese and Japanese works draw extensively on Xu's book.

Along with the history, topography, governmental structures, customs, and language of Ryûkyû, the text also describes the Chinese envoys' journey to the island kingdom, and a variety of formal receptions and banquets enjoyed by the envoys, along with official rituals and ceremonies, including the investiture ceremony itself. The volume's diagrams of the maritime distances between Fuzhou and Naha, and between Naha and various other locations in the Ryûkyû Islands, may be the earliest extant such record.[1]

Following his return to China in 1720, Xu organized the text to be formally presented to the Kangxi Emperor. It was then published for wider consumption in China in 1721, by a publisher called Èr'yǒuzhāi (二友斎, lit. "Two Friends Studio"). It is unclear precisely when the text first made its way to Japan, but it is mentioned in documents from 1740 and 1759;[2] it was then republished in Edo and Kyoto beginning in 1765, including a version published in Kyoto in 1766 which included kundoku marks aiding the Japanese reader to read the classical Chinese.[3] The Kyoto publishers were Hayashi Ihei (Bunshidô) and Zeniya Zenbei (Nishiyama-bô). Some of these editions bore a preface by Confucian scholar Hattori Somon. The text was later re-published in a variety of different forms, some more loyal to the original than others. Morishima Chûryô's Ryûkyû-dan, published in 1790, draws extensively on the Chûzan denshin roku, as do the Ryûkyû nendaiki and Ryûkyû kitan, both published in 1832.


The book is divided into six chapters (kan, 巻).

  1. Records regarding the investiture vessel, guards and officials, onboard equipment (e.g. compass, quartz clock), navigational directions, diaries of previous journeys, day-by-day schedule of previous investiture missions' journeys, day-by-day record of the winds, record of worship of Tenpi, and sections relating to Confucian observance and worship of sea deities.
  2. Records of the missions' banquets and formal rituals, the ship's arrival in port at Naha, the Tenshikan, the Tenpi Shrines in Kumemura, shrines to previous kings of Chûzan, Confucian festivals, Shuri castle, the investiture ceremony, the Imperial Decree of investiture, the royal entourage in procession, Mid-Autumn Festival banquet, Chrysanthemum Festival banquet, and the royal gratitude ceremony and presentation of tribute.
  3. A genealogy of the Ryukyuan kings
  4. Descriptions of the stars visible in Ryûkyû, the tides, the supposed 36 islands of the archipelago, and a map of the islands.
  5. Descriptions of Ryukyuan court ranks; court costume; aristocratic families; land-holdings; anji and their stipends; the calendar; rites & rituals; an image of the arrangement of memorial tablets for the former kings; the memorial tablets at Engaku-ji; descriptions of study, scholarship, and writing in the kingdom; Zen; and monks' stipends.
  6. Descriptions of customs, homes (architecture), rice and grains, household goods (dishes, lacquerware platters, etc.), women, ships, palanquins, horses, bows & arrows, local products, writing, and Okinawan language.


  • Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 226-228.
  • Yokoyama Manabu, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.
  1. Katrien Hendrick, The Origins of Banana-Fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus, Japan, Leuven University Press (2007), 54.
  2. Yokoyama, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû, 226.
  3. William Fleming, “The World Beyond the Walls: Morishima Chūryō (1756-1810) and the Development of Late Edo Fiction,” PhD dissertation, Harvard University (2011), 89.