Gusuku period

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  • Dates: 1100s-1429
  • Japanese: グスク時代 (gusuku jidai)

The Gusuku Period was a period of Ryukyuan history during which gusuku fortresses were at their peak. The islands were controlled by local powerholders or lords known as anji or aji, and saw considerable violence as anji vied with one another for land and power. The islands first began to become unified toward the end of this period. Trade and other interactions with both China and Japan were active and vibrant, though not nearly as strong as in later centuries.

Many scholars identify the Gusuku period as beginning around the 1100s, coinciding with the introduction of porcelain[1] and with a rising formation of more complex societies, the proliferation of settlements with complex permanent structures, and the beginnings of the maturation of the aji class, and of the gusuku themselves. They take the unification of the islands under the Kingdom of Chûzan (i.e. the Ryûkyû Kingdom) as marking the end of this period, as it neatly and conveniently allows the next period to be called the "period of the kingdom." However, historian Akamine Mamoru, among others, identifies the "Gusuku Period" of Okinawan history as beginning some centuries earlier, in or around the 8th century, with the advent of agriculture, and the resulting emergence of the earliest complex settled societies, local lords, and fortifications. He designates the Gusuku period as ending with King Shô Shin's (r. 1477-1526) summoning all the local lords (anji) to reside in Shuri, consolidating his power over all their lands.[2]


  1. Suzuki Kakichi, et al. "Ryukyuan Architecture: Its History and Features," Okinawa bijutsu zenshû 沖縄美術全集, vol 5, Okinawa Times (1989), 89.
  2. Akamine Mamoru, Lina Terrell (trans.), Robert Huey (ed.), The Ryukyu Kingdom: Cornerstone of East Asia, University of Hawaii Press (2017), 12.