Chuzan seifu

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A copy of the Chûzan seifu on display at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum

Chûzan seifu is an official history of Okinawa. Originally compiled by Sai Taku in 1701 to 1712, the text was revised by his son, Sai On, in 1724-1725. Later court chroniclers added to the text in later generations.[1] The seifu draws extensively on the Japanese-language Chûzan seikan, compiled by Shô Shôken around 1650, re-presenting the contents in Chinese; in addition, while the historical facts and overall historical narrative remain consistent with the seikan, Sai Taku and Sai On reorganized, rephrased, and otherwise altered the presentation of the narrative so as to more strongly emphasize Ryûkyû's connections to China, while downplaying connections to Japan.

The text consists of 14 volumes covering the official history of the Ryûkyû Islands, with a particular focus on the islands' relationships with China, and another seven "additional" volumes focusing on relations with Japan.[2] The text begins with a description of the geography of the Ryukyu Islands, including references to the islands' locations relative to Fuzhou. It then moves on to the history, presenting the mythical Tenson dynasty similarly to how Chinese official histories discuss the earliest Chinese sage-kings - as having introduced many of the most basic technologies or cultural elements of civilization, from agriculture to cooking and the construction of homes. In other respects as well, the Chûzan seifu presents the history of the kingdom in a mode resembling that of the Chinese dynastic histories - a moral drama, emphasizing the virtue of individual rulers or entire dynasties.[3]

While the text does mention certain connections to Japan, such as the myth that Shunten, the first king of Okinawa, was the son of Minamoto no Tametomo, and was thus a descendant of the Japanese imperial family, it mentions this only briefly, putting far less emphasis on it than the Chûzan seikan, which dwells on the Tametomo story at length. Another feature of the text is that it suppresses any discussion of the kingdom's military, or military activities, putting greater emphasis on peaceful and enlightened (Chinese/Confucian) civilization, and on Ryûkyû's role as a hub of regional trade.

Copies of this more pro-Chinese version of the history (in comparison to the Chûzan seikan) were commonly given as gifts to the Chinese Court by Ryukyuan students in China,[3] or were presented to Chinese investiture envoys in Ryûkyû.


  • "Chûzan seifu," Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia 沖縄コンパクト事典, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.
  • Gregory Smits, "Rethinking Ryukyu," International Journal of Okinawan Studies 6:1 (2015), 1-2.
  1. "Chûzan seifu," Hyakka jiten Mypedia, Hitachi Solutions, 2015.
  2. "Chûzan seifu," Sekai daihyakka jiten, Hitachi Solutions, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gregory Smits, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.