Nanpo Bunshi

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Monument to Nanpo Bunshi at the former site of Dairyû-ji in Kagoshima
  • Born: 1555
  • Died: 1620
  • Other Names: 文之玄昌 (Bunshi Genshou)
  • Japanese: 南浦文之 (Nanpo Bunshi)

Nanpo Bunshi was the first abbot of the Kagoshima temple of Dairyû-ji, and author of an account of the history of firearms entitled Teppô-ki.[1] He was also a Neo-Confucian scholar of the Satsunan school.

Born in the village of Tonoura near Obi in Hyûga province, he is said to have been called a child prodigy in his youth. Bunshi's father, who had the surname Yusa, was originally from Kawachi province, but had fled to Hyûga to escape the violence of the Sengoku period. From the age of six, Bunshi studied Nichiren Buddhism under a monk named Tentaku at the Enmei-ji in Mei, in Hyûga province. Tentaku introduced him to the monk & Neo-Confucian scholar Ichiô Genshin, and Bunshi took the tonsure, taking on the monastic name Genshô.

He then traveled to Kyoto in 1569, and studied under Kishun Ryûki at the Ryûgin-an at Tôfuku-ji. In 1573, he returned to Kyushu, and entered the Jingo-ji in Ôsumi province, at Ichiô's suggestion. He was then recommended by Ichiô in 1481 for the position of head of Ryûgen-ji in Fukushima in Hyûga, and later became head priest of the Shôrin-ji in Kôyama (Ôsumi), and the Shôju-ji in Takarabe (Hyûga). He also studied Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianism under Kôka Yûken, a Chinese scholar who had become a samurai retainer to Satsuma han.[2]

Shimazu Yoshihisa, lord of Satsuma han, invited Bunshi to become his advisor, and head of Shôkô-ji and Ankoku-ji in Ôsumi. He continued to serve the Shimazu clan as an advisor to Yoshihisa's successor Shimazu Yoshihiro, and Yoshihiro's successor Shimazu Iehisa. He accompanied Yoshihiro to Kyoto in 1599, where he lectured on the Great Learning at Tôfuku-ji, and was then sent as Yoshihiro's messenger to meet with Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sunpu in 1603.

Under Iehisa, he played a key role in advising policy on Satsuma's relations with Ryûkyû, and handling and composing diplomatic documents. His scholarly writings include Nanpo bunshû (Collected Works of Nanpo), Seisekizu washô (Japanese commentaries on the pictorial biography of Confucius), Nisshû heijiki (Record of Pacification of Hyûga), Henguron ("Essay on the Remedy for an Idiot"), Kesshôki ("Essay on Spiritual Awakening in Zen"), and Tô Ryûkyû shi narabi ni jo ("Verses and Preface on the Chastisement of Ryukyu"). This last work describes the history of the Ryûkyû Kingdom and the justifications for the 1609 Shimazu invasion of Ryukyu.[3]

Nanpo Bunshi died in 1620, and is buried at Ankoku-ji in Kajiki, Satsuma province. Tomari Jochiku was among his most prominent students.


  • Plaques on-site at former site of Dairyû-ji.
  • Takatsu Takashi, “Ming Jianyang Prints and the Spread of the Teachings of Zhu Xi to Japan and the Ryukyu Kingdom in the Seventeenth Century,” in Angela Schottenhammer (ed.), The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Harrassowitz Verlag (2008), 257-258.
  1. Nanpo Bunshi, Teppô-ki, c. 1604, translated in Tsunoda, et al., Sources of Japanese Tradition, New York: Columbia University Press (1958), 308-312.
  2. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 247.
  3. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 155.