Gi Shien

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  • Born: 1618
  • Died: 1689
  • Japanese/Chinese 之琰 (Gi Shien / Wèi Zhīyǎn)

Gi Shien, known in Chinese as Wèi Zhīyǎn, was one of the chief musicians credited with introducing music of the Ming Dynasty into Japan in the 17th century.

Little is known of his life in China. Originally from Fujian province, he fled the chaos of the Qing conquest of China alongside his brother Wei Zhiyuan. The two brothers first settled in Tonkin and Annam for a time, where they became involved in commercial trade / shipping between Vietnam and Japan. Zhiyan's brother died in 1654, and twelve years later, in 1666, Zhiyan made his way to Japan. He took up residence in Nagasaki beginning in 1672, and the following year was granted permission to travel to Kyoto to perform Ming music. While in Nagasaki, Zhiyan also became an active patron of Sôfuku-ji, an Ôbaku Zen temple closely associated with the Chinese community there.

In 1679, Wei Zhiyan was granted Japanese nationality, and his descendants took on the Japanese-style surname Ôga (鉅鹿, C: Jùlù, after the family's hometown in Julu county in Hebei province)[1]. A number of them, perhaps Gi Kô (aka Gi Shimei, 1728-1774) especially, played significant roles in spreading Ming music further, over the course of the Edo period.


  • Nakao Yukari 中尾友香梨, "Nihon ni okeru Mingaku no juyô" 「日本における明楽の受容」, in Kojima Yasunori 小島康敬 (ed.), Reigaku bunka 礼楽文化, Tokyo: Pelican-sha (2013), 343.
  • Jiang Wu, Leaving for the Rising Sun: Chinese Zen Master Yinyuan and the Authenticity Crisis in Early Modern East Asia, Oxford University Press (2015), 107.
  1. Britten Dean, “Mr. Gi’s Music Book: An Annotated Translation of Gi Shimei’s Gi-shi gakufu,” Monumenta Nipponica 37:3 (1982), 317.