Tansui, a cousin of Shô Shôken, was born into a prominent Shuri family, and traveled to Satsuma as a youth. Japanese arts were particularly popular among the Ryukyuan elites at that time, with native Ryukyuan music being seen as vulgar.
Feeling Ryûkyû needed its own art forms, and thinking the sanshin would prove the essential core of Okinawan performance arts, Tansui shut himself up in the Nakashima pleasure districts, immersing himself in the composition of new sanshin pieces. He took a courtesan of Nakashima as a second wife; her skills as a musician and dancer contributed to his efforts.
A group of prominent aristocrats accused Tansui of improper behavior, and he was exiled from Shuri. For a time, he became the target of considerable public criticism and negative gossip, but his music attracted the attention of the king, who had great esteem for Tansui's compositions. The king thus ended Tansui's exile, inviting him to return to Shuri, and naming him head of tea ceremony. Tansui then took the tonsure, and taking on the name Tansui as his monastic name.