Sho Ei

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  • Born: 1559
  • Died: 1588
  • Japanese/Chinese: (Shô Ei / Shàng Yǒng)

Shô Ei was the 13th king of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, reigning from 1573 to 1587.

He was the second son of King Shô Gen, and succeeded his father upon the latter's death in 1572. He received investiture from the Ming Dynasty in 1579. It was on this occasion that the now-famous "Shurei no kuni" plaque was first created and hung at the gate of Shuri castle; though originally hung only during the visit of the Ming envoys, King Shô Shitsu later had it hung permanently.

Though official kingdom histories such as Chûzan seifu focus on this famous plaque and say little else about Shô Ei's reign, this period saw considerable developments in Ryûkyû's relations with the Shimazu clan of Satsuma province. These included an embassy sent by Ryûkyû to Kagoshima in 1575 which, in Shimazu eyes, was owed to them since 1570; though the embassy was received with formal ceremonies, ritual gift-exchange, and considerable entertainments and banqueting, they were also presented by the Shimazu with a number of complaints as to Ryûkyû's poor or inappropriate diplomatic/ritual behavior in recent years. In 1577, Shô Ei sent the abbot of Tenkai-ji to Kagoshima to formally apologize, to formally congratulate Shimazu Yoshihisa once again on becoming head of the clan and lord of the three provinces of Satsuma, Ôsumi, and Hyûga, and to inform the Shimazu that a more formal embassy would come the following year. After a Ryukyuan ayabune arrived in Kagoshima the following year bearing 30 ryô of gold and other gifts making up for what the Shimazu saw as insufficient gifts presented by previous embassies, the Shimazu formally declared good relations restored in 1579.[1]

In 1587, despite having two brothers (at least one of whom, Shô Kyû, was still living), Shô Ei was succeeded by one of his nephews, who took the throne as King Shô Nei.[2]

Shô Ei was entombed alongside his primary queen, Konkô, at the royal mausoleum at Tamaudun.

Preceded by:
Shô Gen
Reign as King of Ryûkyû
Succeeded by:
Shô Nei


  1. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 210-212.
  2. Shô Nei was the son of one of Shô Ei's sisters. Whether he was formally adopted as heir prior to Shô Ei's death seems unclear, being mentioned in only one of the kingdom's official histories. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 143.