Ryukyu-koku shiryaku

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Naminoue Shrine, as depicted in an 1831 Japanese woodblock-printed copy of the Liuqiu-guo zhilue
Not to be confused with Ryukyu-koku jiryaku 琉球国事略 by Arai Hakuseki.
  • Compiled: 1757
  • Author: Zhou Huang
  • Japanese/Chinese: 琉球国志略 (Ryuukyuu koku shi ryaku / Liúqiú-guó zhìlüè)

The Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku, sometimes described as Brief History of the Ryukyu Kingdom[1] in English, is a record of the history of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, derived chiefly from the records of Chinese investiture envoys to the kingdom. It was compiled by Zhou Huang, deputy ambassador on the 1757 mission to Ryûkyû, who resided in Ryûkyû for roughly seven months that year[2]. Relating details not only of the 1757 mission but of all investiture missions up until that time, tt has been described as the most complete set of records of the investiture missions published in the early modern period.[3]

The document is divided into 17 spread across 16 volumes, and consists primarily of summaries of previous envoys' records, along with Zhou Huang's personal observations and commentary[4], and a number of rough images of famous places in Ryukyu, maps of the islands, and depictions of Ryukyuan costume, ships, and other objects[2].

It includes a traditional account of Ryukyu's history, and describes in depth the kingdom's tributary relationship with China as well as the system of Chinese investiture envoys. Zhou also describes the kingdom's government and administration, military and legal affairs, taxation systems, and the customs and characteristics of the people, suggesting a climactic logic for the latter. Though he also describes many of the kingdom's temples and other famous or remarkable sites, including sketches of several famous sites, Zhou for the most part describes Ryukyu as a barbarian kingdom, inferior to the lofty cultural standards of the Middle Kingdom (China)[1].

The text was reprinted in woodblock print form by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1831. A copy was obtained by Katsushika Hokusai the following year, who used the images in the book as the basis for his "Eight Views of Ryukyu" (Ryûkyû Hakkei) series of ukiyo-e landscape prints[5].

A translation of the Chinese text into modern Japanese was written by Hirata Tsugumasa and published in 1977.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. (revised ed.) Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p211.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hirata Tsugumasa (trans.). Zhou Huang. Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku. Tokyo: San-ichi Shobô, 1977.
  3. Richard Pegg, "For the Record: Chinese Conferment Missions to Ryukyu from 1372-1866," talk given at Okinawan Art in its Regional Context: Historical Overview and Contemporary Practice symposium, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 10 Oct 2019.
  4. "Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku". Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia"). Ryukyu Shimpo (琉球新報). 1 March 2003. Accessed 14 October 2009.
  5. Kishi, Akimasa. Hokusai no Ryûkyû hakkei ni tsuite (北斎の琉球八景について, "On Hokusai's Eight Views of Ryukyu"). Ukiyo-e geijutsu, vol 13 (1966). Japan Ukiyo-e Society. pp36-39.