Zhou Huang

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A work of calligraphy by Zhou Huang, from the collection of Ichikawa Beian. Tokyo National Museum.
  • Died: 1785
  • Chinese/Japanese: (Zhōu Huáng / Shuu Kou)

Zhou Huang was a Chinese bureaucrat and diplomat who is particularly known for having compiled the Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku (C: Liuqiu-guo zhilue), a history of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû based on records written by previous envoys to Ryukyu.

Originally from Sichuan province, Zhou Huang passed the Chinese Imperial examinations (jinshi) in 1737[1]. He then accompanied Senior Envoy Quan Kui to Ryûkyû in 1756-1757 to present gifts of congratulation and to perform the ceremonies officially acknowledging and recognizing, on behalf of the Qing Imperial Court, the accession of Shô Boku to the Ryukyuan throne. On the way to Okinawa, the envoys' ship ran aground on coral, and was shipwrecked; everyone made it safely to shore on Kumejima, however, where they erected a shrine to Tenpi (aka Matsu or Mazu), Taoist patron goddess of sailor and of navigation, in thanks[2]. Before continuing on to the Ryukyuan port of Naha, the mission returned to Fuzhou, where it regrouped and set out for Ryûkyû aboard a new ship, arriving in winter[3].

After arriving in Shuri, the envoys stayed for roughly seven months, during which time Zhou Huang compiled his predecessors reports, commented on them, compared them to Ryukyuan records and histories, and wrote his own record of his own mission, along with other observations and thoughts. This would become the Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku, which was later re-published by the Tokugawa shogunate and distributed, and which survives today[4].

The envoys were presented by the king of Ryûkyû with a gift of 50,000 ounces of silver, as compensation for the many goods lost in the shipwreck. Upon the embassy's return to China, the Qianlong Emperor ordered that the money be returned, as such a gift imposed a heavy burden on the finances of the small island kingdom, and stated that the envoys should be compensated for their losses out of Fujian public funds; in an audience with the Emperor shortly afterward, however, Quan Kui and Zhou Huang expressed that the silver was given freely by the king, of his own goodwill, and the Emperor reversed his decision. However, learning that several members of the embassy had started fights while in Ryûkyû, and were excessively forceful about trying to unload their goods for trade, the Emperor reversed his decision once again, ordering that the funds be returned to Ryûkyû. Those directly responsible were sentenced - some killed, some beaten and banished. Quan Kui was pardoned, but Zhou Huang was deprived of his title (but not of his post)[3].

After returning to China, Zhou was appointed in 1759 to a position as a lecturer.[5]

A work of calligraphy by Zhou Huang, now in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum, was previously owned by Ichikawa Beian, and reproduced in Shôzanrindô shoga bunbô zuroku, a woodblock-printed catalog of his collections.


  1. Schottenhammer, Angela. "The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges - China and her neighbors." in Schottenhammer (ed.) The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007. p45.
  2. "Shû Kô". 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.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ch'en, Ta-Tuan. "Investiture of Liu-Ch'iu Kings in the Ch'ing Period." in Fairbank, John King (ed.) The Chinese World Order. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. pp135-164.
  4. Hirata, Tsugumasa (trans.). Chou, Huang. Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku. Tokyo: San-ichi Shobô, 1977.
  5. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 255.