Li Dingyuan

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  • Other Names: 墨荘 (Mò Zhuāng)
  • Chinese/Japanese: 鼎元 (Lǐ Dǐngyuán / Ri Teigen)

Li Dingyuan was a Qing Dynasty official who served as vice-envoy on a Chinese investiture mission to the Ryûkyû Kingdom led by Zhao Wenkai in 1800.

Originally from Sichuan province, Li was also known as Mò Zhuāng. He passed the highest level of Confucian civil service exams in 1778, earning his jìnshì, and was granted a position in the Central Secretariat (Nèigé zhōngshū, 内閣中書).[1]

As the 1800 mission came only shortly after the death of the long-reigning Qianlong Emperor, a variety of changes were made to the ritual protocols, in observance of traditional mourning practices. The seven banquets traditionally organized by the kingdom to welcome and entertain the envoys were skipped, Zhao and Li discouraged members of their party from engaging in private trade, and they also politely declined an offer by the king to grant them a gift of 10,000 ounces of silver as an expression of gratitude.[2] Li did accept, however, a number of gifts given him by Ryukyuan officials on the occasion of his mother's birthday; it came as quite a surprise to him that they would know of his mother's birthday, and would provide such gifts, a truly thoughtful gesture.[3]

Among the many other activities in which Li engaged during his time in Ryûkyû, on 1800/9/19, he visited with Ie ueekata Chôkei (aka Shô Tenteki), one of the Sanshikan, the top three officials in the kingdom, at Ie dunchi in Shuri Tônokura-chô.

On the return journey from Ryûkyû, the mission was attacked by pirates, and also endured a great storm. Li and the rest of the mission's members survived, however, and return to China safely. The experience was quite harrowing, however, and Zhao Wenkai is said to have never truly recovered.

A collection of Li's poetry, entitled Shī zhú zhāi jí 師竹斎集, survives.[1]


  • Gallery labels, Naha City Museum of History.
  1. 1.0 1.1 Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 241.
  2. Ta-Tuan Ch'en, "Investiture of Liu-Ch'iu Kings in the Ch'ing Period." in John King Fairbank (ed.), The Chinese World Order, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. pp135-164.
  3. Gregory Smits, presentation at "Interpreting Parades and Processions of Edo Japan" symposium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 11 Feb 2013.