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This article is about the former state. For the township in Pingtung County, see Lamay Island.

Liuqiu or Lewchew (Chinese: 流求, 琉求, or 琉球; pinyin: Liúqiú) was the name given by the Chinese to islands in the East China Sea and nearby waters, sometimes in mythical or legendary contexts. The name is currently used for the Ryukyu Islands, which used to be a China tributary state with absolute sovereignty.[1]

A detailed description of an island kingdom called "Liúqiú" may be found in the Book of Sui.[2] The Book of Sui places the report on Liúqiú second to last within the chapter on "Eastern Barbarians" (Dongyi), following the report on Mohe and preceding the report on Wa (Japan). The text describes the territory of Liúqiú and its people as follows:

"The country of Liúqiú is situated amidst islands in the sea, in a location that should be east of Jiàn'ān County,[Note 1] to which one may arrive with five days' travel by water. The land has many caves.[Note 2] Its king's clan name is Huansi, and his given name is Keladou; it is not known how many generations have passed since he and his have come to possess the country. The people of that land call him Kelaoyang, and for his wife, [they] say Duobatu. His place of residence they call Boluotan Grotto, with threefold moats and fences; the perimeter has flowing water, trees and briars as barriers. As for the domicile of the king, it is sixteen rooms large, and engraved with carvings of birds and beasts. There are many Doulou trees, which resemble the orange but with foliage that is dense. The country has four or five chiefs, who unite several villages under their rule; the villages have [their own] little kings."
"The people have deep eyes and long noses, seeming to be rather akin to the Hu, and also having petty cleverness. There is no observance of hierarchy of ruler and minister nor the rite of prostrating oneself with one's palms pressed together. Fathers and children sleep together in the same bed. The men pluck out their whiskers and beards, and any place on their bodies where they happen to have hair, they will also remove it. The adult women use ink to tattoo their hands in the design of insects and serpents. As for marriage, they use wine, delicacies, pearls and shells to arrange a betrothal; if a man and a woman have found pleasure in each other, then they get married."


  1. ^ Chinese: 建安郡; pinyin: Jiàn'ān-jùn, now Jian'ou, Nanping, Fujian, China
  2. ^ Alternatively, "The land has many mountains and caves" or "The land has many mountain caves."