Sho Ken

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  • Born: 1625
  • Died: 1647
  • Japanese/Chinese: (Shô Ken / Shàng Xián)

Shô Ken was the ninth king of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, reigning from 1641 to 1647.

The third son of King Shô Hô, he came to the throne just a few years before the fall of the Ming dynasty, and by the time a formal embassy was sent in 1644 to officially inform the Ming court of the death of the previous king, and to request investiture for Shô Ken, Beijing had already fallen. Kin Ôgen led this mission, meeting with the Hongguang Emperor of the Southern Ming in Nanjing. As Manchu forces made their way south and various Southern Ming leaders fell one after another, Shô Ken dispatched multiple missions, offering congratulations, inquiring as to conditions, and/or requesting investiture.[1]

Shô Ken worked to maintain relations with, and loyalty to, the Ming dynasty during this period for several reasons. Firstly, there were practical economic concerns including the desire to maintain or regain access to the trade in raw silk. Secondly, the Ming Empire had stood for more than two and a half centuries, longer than a united Ryûkyû Kingdom had yet existed. It was not yet clear during Shô Ken's reign that the Qing would ultimately win and the Ming would be eliminated; remaining loyal to the Ming, or at least attempting to play both sides, was the safest move for Ryûkyû amidst circumstances in which there were not yet any guarantees whether the Ming would ultimately repulse the Manchu invasion and regain its strength (and territory) or not, and under which of the Southern Ming leaders.

In 1644, Shô Ken began a tradition of formal royal visits to Shikina Shrine in the first, fifth, and ninth months of the year.[2]

Shô Ken died in 1647 after a short reign, and was succeeded by his younger brother, who took the throne as King Shô Shitsu. Shô Ken was entombed at the royal mausoleum at Tamaudun, where he was later joined by his queen, Kaho (d. 1666).[3]

Preceded by:
Shô Hô
Reign as King of Ryûkyû
Succeeded by:
Shô Shitsu


  1. Schottenhammer, Angela. “Empire and Periphery? The Qing Empire’s Relations with Japan and the Ryūkyūs (1644–c. 1800), a Comparison.” The Medieval History Journal 16, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 176-177.
  2. Plaques on-site at Shikina Shrine.
  3. Nakamura Toru. "被葬者一覧." Okinawa no sekai isan 沖縄の世界遺産. 2005.