Bunei (Ryukyu)

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Bunei (武寧) (r. 1398–1406), also known as Wuning,[1] was the last chief[2] of Chūzan, one of three polities on the island of Okinawa, before it was united into the Ryukyu Kingdom by Shō Hashi.

Biography[edit]

Bunei inherited the throne upon the death of his father, chief Satto. His reign saw the continuation of many of the previous trends and developments; in particular, Bunei sought to continue to develop commercial ties between Ryukyu and China. A special headquarters was built in Naha for Chinese envoys and similar missions, and a trading center was established nearby. In addition, the royal annals began to be compiled; the Rekidai Hoan (Treasury of Royal Succession) was first compiled in 1403.

This period saw a great proliferation of trade and cultural interaction between the three Okinawan polities and other states in the region; sources seem to indicate, however, that only Chūzan successfully established relations with the Ashikaga shogunate of Japan in this period. An embassy was sent to Siam in 1409, and relations with kingdoms in Java and Sumatra remained strong, having been established some time earlier by traders. All three Okinawan polities, Chūzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan, sent emissaries to Korea in 1397, likely separately, and established strong friendly relations with the newly formed Joseon dynasty. From Korea, Chūzan saw a great influx of Buddhist ideas and objects, and it is believed that Shintō first entered Okinawa in a significant way at this time as well, from Japan.

Naha became the busiest port on the island at this time, bringing wealth and prestige to Chūzan over its neighboring polities, and enhancing already heightened tensions. The lords of both Hokuzan and Nanzan died around the same time as Bunei's father Satto, and since China never recognized more than one chief (or prince, in the Chinese view) of Okinawa, all three clamored to be officially invested by the Chinese Imperial Court as the sole ruler of all of Okinawa. However, due to the recent chaos in Nanking, which was taken by force by Zhu Di, installing himself as Ming Emperor, Bunei's request lay unanswered for eleven years. A missive was finally sent in 1406.

Meanwhile, a local lord (anji) named Hashi led a small rebellion in 1402, and brought down the lord of Azato district, near the site of the Chūzan palace at Urasoe. It is not clear exactly what discussions took place inside the royal court, or what actions were considered, but nothing was done for five years. In 1406, less than one year after Bunei was officially recognized as king ("prince") of Chūzan by China, Hashi led a larger rebellion, ousting Bunei and establishing Shō Shishō, Hashi's father, as chief of Chūzan. Though records do not indicate the details of Bunei's fate, it is likely that he either died at the hands of the rebels, or escaped to some distant island to live out the rest of his days in relative solitude.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Suganuma, Unryu. (2000). Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations, p. 46., p. 46, at Google Books
  2. ^ George H. Kerr. (2000). Okinawa: The History of an Island People, p. 52 , p. 52, at Google Books; although the paramount leaders of Okinawa beginning with Shunten (c. 1166 – c. 1237) are commonly identified as "kings," Kerr observes that "it is misleading to attribute full-fledged 'kingship' to an Okinawan chief in these early centuries... distinctly individual leadership exercised through force of personality or preeminent skill in arms or political shrewdness was only slowly replaced by formal institutions of government — laws and ceremonies — supported and strengthened by a developing respect for the royal office."

References[edit]

Preceded by
Satto
Chief of Chūzan
1398–1406
Succeeded by
Shō Shishō