Gusukuma Seiho

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  • Born: 1614/10/18
  • Died: 1644/10/18
  • Other Names: 自了 (Ji Ryou); 欽可聖 (Qin Kesheng)[1]
  • Japanese/Okinawan: 城間 清豊 (Gusukuma Seihou)

Gusukuma Seihô was an official court painter at the royal court of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, and is one of the most celebrated painters in Ryukyuan history. He is perhaps the earliest Ryukyuan painter who is both known by name, and by surviving artwork.[2]

Gusukuma was born to an aristocratic family in Shuri. His father Gusukuma Seishin was a musician, who had led the musical performers on the 1627 Ryukyuan embassy to Edo[3]; but Seihô was a deaf mute[4] and he focused his energies in a different direction, teaching himself to paint[5]. He sought out Chinese paintings, and was heavily influenced by them[1].

Hearing of the young painter, King Shô Hô called him to his court, and bestowed upon him the name Ji Ryô. It is said that the Chinese investiture envoys, including Du Sance, who witnessed his painting compared him to some of the top painters in China, and that Kanô Yasunobu, court painter for the Tokugawa shogunate, similarly praised the artist when one of Gusukuma's works was brought to Edo by the 1634 Ryukyuan embassy[5][4].

He was raised and educated at court, though it is unknown under whom he studied painting. He may have learned from a Chinese painter in service to the court, and likely studied painting manuals and the like. Though known chiefly for his paintings, he produced calligraphy and sculpture as well.[3]

Though the kafu system of records of aristocratic lineages was not fully established and standardized until 1689, roughly 45 years after Seihô's death, he appears in such records under the name Qin. The Kyûyô also refers to him, describing how he was given the name Jiryô by the king, granted a position at court, and raised/educated there, on account of his excellent skill at painting.[3]

Most of Gusukuma's works were destroyed in the 1945 battle of Okinawa. There is only one extant work which bears a seal (rakan) confirming it to have been painted by Gusukuma[5][4]. It is held by the Okinawa Prefectural Museum, has been designated an Okinawa Prefectural Important Cultural Property, and depicts a fantastic creature known as bai ze in Chinese (J: hakutaku)[4].

However, pre-war scholarship indicates that of the extant works in 1933, some reflected study of early Kanô school painting styles, some aimed for the style of Kaihô Yûshô, and some matched styles of Chinese paintings of the Song and Yuan dynasties, including the minimalist method of Liang Kai.[3]

Seihô died an early death, at age 31.


  • "Ji Ryô." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Dictionary"). Ryukyu Shimpo. 1 March 2003. Accessed 6 October 2009.
  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gusukuma Seihô." Accessed 6 October 2009.
  2. Satoshi Tsuhako, "Arts and Crafts of Okinawa," Bingata! Only in Okinawa, Okinawa Prefectural Government (2016), 24.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Higa Chôken 比嘉朝健。”Kanô Yasunobu to Ryûkyû no gajin Jiryô" 狩野安信と琉球の画人自了。 Tôei (Jun-Nihonga Zasshi) 搭影(純日本画雑誌)、 Vol. 9-8 (Oct 1933). pp41-45.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Hakutaku no zu." Arts of Okinawa. Okinawa Prefectural Government. 2003. Accessed 6 October 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Ji Ryô." Okinawa rekishi jinmei jiten (沖縄歴史人名事典, "Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History"). Naha: Okinawa Bunka-sha, 1996. p 44.