Ryukyu Shinto ki
The Ryûkyû Shintô ki (lit. "Record of the Way of the Gods in Ryûkyû") is an account of religion in the Ryûkyû Kingdom, completed in 1605 by the Japanese monk Taichû. Along with Taichû's Ryûkyû ôrai, also completed in 1605, it is one of the two first books in Japanese to describe Ryûkyû at length. Both were requested or commissioned by the Ryukyuan scholar-official Ba Kômei.
The text is divided into five chapters (kan), beginning with one on the four Buddhist realms. Chapter Two discusses India (Tenjiku), birthplace of Buddhism, and Chapter Three traces the history of China (Shittan) by imperial reign, up through the Ming Dynasty. The fourth chapter describes the main objects of worship (honzon) of Ryûkyû's temples, identifying for each Ryukyuan manifestation (suijaku) the "true" deity (honji) being manifested. The final chapter then discusses beliefs and worship in Ryûkyû, including summaries of the origin stories (engi) of Ryûkyû's major Shinto shrines.
Though the nine shrines Taichû focuses on have strong connections to Japanese deities and their worship (i.e. Shinto), Taichû goes on to describe native Ryukyuan religion as well, touching upon the indigenous hearth spirits (hi nu kan), pestilence spirits, and so forth, as well as kagura, torii, Amaterasu, and dôsojin (street spirits) stemming from Japan, and the Chinese goddess Tenpi.
In the last sections of the book, Taichû touches upon a wide range of Ryukyuan customs and myths, from the origin of hachimaki (court caps), theories connecting Ryûkyû to the Dragon King's underwater palace (Ryûgû), and habu (Ryukyuan vipers), to whaling and fishing, tattoos, and how the servants of the mountain gods are called Tarô and Jirô. The Ryûkyû Shintô ki is also significantly the first text to indicate that the kings of Ryûkyû were descended from Minamoto no Tametomo; this myth would become widely accepted, and repeated in both Ryukyuan and Japanese writings as historical fact, down until the early 20th century.
- Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 52-53.
- See honji suijaku.
- Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 5.
- Yokoyama, 57.