Ryukyuan currency

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Trade in the Ryûkyû Kingdom was largely conducted using Chinese currency, especially in the premodern period.

Early Coinage

Shô Taikyû (r. 1454-1461) was the first Ryukyuan king to have new coins minted on-island. These taisei tsûhô, inscribed with the phrase 大世通宝, were of poor quality and may have been made directly from Ming dynasty coins produced under the Yongle Emperor, with simply the inscription altered; such Yǒnglè tōngbǎo 永楽通宝 (J: Eiraku tsûhô) were extremely numerous and circulated widely throughout the region.

Taikyû's successor, Shô Toku (r. 1461-1469), and his successor, Shô En (r. 1469-1476), also had coins cast. Some coins from these three reigns have been found in archaeological excavations as far away as Echizen province (modern-day Fukui prefecture), suggesting some significant degree of trade relations.

After these 15th century kings, however, the kingdom did not officially mint coins again for several centuries, until around 1715, when a type of coin known as tômasen began to be produced.

Modern Era

In the 1860s, in the final years of the early modern period, Satsuma han began to produce coins inscribed with the phrase Ryûkyû tsûhô. Though clearly marked in a fashion which would suggest these were Ryukyuan coins, however, the roughly one million Ryûkyû tsûhô produced in Satsuma in 1862 to 1865 circulated only to a limited extent in Ryûkyû and were mainly used within Satsuma territory.[1]


  • Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 117.
  1. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 192.; "Ryûkyû tsûhô." Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia, 沖縄コンパクト事典, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.