Imperial Chinese missions to Ryukyu Kingdom
Imperial Chinese missions to the Ryūkyū Kingdom were diplomatic missions which were intermittently sent by the Yuan, Ming and Qing emperors to Shuri, Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands. These diplomatic contacts were within the Sinocentric system of bilateral and multinational relationships in East Asia.
The Envoys in Shuri
Upon the accession of a new king, the news was generally communicated to the Chinese capital, along with a petition for investiture, by a formal Ryukyuan tribute mission. Following the 1609 invasion of Ryukyu, beginning with the succession of Shō Hō, Satsuma Domain also had to be notified and asked for approval and confirmation of the new king.
Chinese envoys would then be dispatched - sometimes quite quickly, sometimes not until over a decade later - arriving in ships called ukwanshin (御冠船?, lit. "Crown Ships") in Okinawan. The mission would usually consist of two official envoy ships, separate crafts carrying the chief envoy and his deputy, as some uncertainty accompanied the journey; these would be accompanied by a number of merchant ships. During Japan's Edo period, an agent from Satsuma known as a kansen bugyō (冠船奉行?, "Investiture (Crown) Ships Magistrate") would be sent down to Ryūkyū to supervise the exchanges and interactions between Chinese and Ryukyuan officials, albeit from somewhat of a distance, given the policy of hiding Satsuma's involvement in Ryūkyū from the Chinese.
Envoys generally stayed in Ryūkyū for four to eight months, and were extensively entertained by the Ryukyuan royal court. A number of structures built for this purpose, including the Ryūtan pond and the Hokuden (North Hall) of Shuri Castle, can still be seen today on the castle grounds. The total Chinese entourage generally numbered between 300 and 800 people, and hosting and entertaining the Chinese envoys was an extremely expensive endeavor for the Ryukyuan court.
A "Dance Magistrate (踊奉行 odori bugyō?, O: udui bugyō)" oversaw these entertainments; kumi odori, a traditional form of Ryukyuan dance-drama, was first created and performed for entertaining an investiture envoy and his fellows, in 1719.
Timeline of Missions
King Satto became, in 1372, the first Ryukyuan king to submit to Chinese suzerainty. Beginning with the investiture of Satto's successor, Bunei, in 1404, twenty-two such missions traveled to Ryūkyū in total, the last in 1866, for the investiture of Shō Tai.
|Year||Emperor of China||Chinese envoys||Ryūkyū king||Comments|
|1373||Jianwen||Yang Zai 楊載||Satto||mission purpose is to bring islands into Sinitic system.|
|1404||Yongle||Shi Zhong 時中||Bunei||investiture (cefeng) mission confirms Bunei as king in Ryūkyū.|
|1415||Yongle||Chen Xiuro 陳秀若||Shō Shishō|
|1427||Xuande||Chai Shan 柴山;
Ruan Jian 
|1443||Zhengtong||Yu Bian 余忭;
Liu Xun 劉遜
|1448||Zhengtong||Chen Chuan 陳傳;
Wan Xiang 萬祥
|1452||Jingtai||Qiao Yi 喬毅;
Tong Shouhong 童守宏
|1456||Jingtai||Yan Cheng 嚴誠;
Liu Jian 劉儉
|1464||Chenghua||Pang Rong 潘榮;
Cai Zhe 蔡哲
|1472||Hongzhi||Guang Rong 官榮;
Han Wen 韓文 
|Shō En||installation of the new king.|
|1479||Hongzhi||Dong Min 董旻;
Zhang Xiang 張祥
|1534||Jaijing||Chen Kan 陳侃 ;
Gao Cheng 高澄
|Shō Sei||mission encompassed a retinue of over 200 persons travelling in two ships which were specially constructed for this diplomatic purpose. The ambassador recorded details of the voyage and the reception the Chinese encountered in Shuri, the capital of the kingdom. This book, Shi Liu-ch'iu lu (Chinese: 使琉球錄), still exists in transcription Chinese, Japanese and Korean versions.|
|1561||Jaijing||Guo Rulin 郭汝霖;
Li Jichun 李際春
|1576||Wanli||Shō Ei||Hseieh Chieh was a member of the 1576 mission to the Ryukyu Islands. He published an account of his experiences.|
|1579||Wanli||Xiao Chongye 蕭崇業;
Hseieh Chieh 謝杰
|1606||Wanli||Xia Ziyang 夏子陽;
Wang Shizhen 王士楨
|1633||Chongzhen||Du Sance 杜三策;
Yang Lun 楊掄
|Shō Hō||investitutre of king|
|1663||Kangxi||Zhang Xueli 張學禮;
Wang Gai 王垓
|Shō Shitsu||investitutre of king|
|1683||Kangxi||Wang Ji 汪楫;
Lin Linchang 林麟焻
|Shō Tei||investitutre of king.|
Xu Baoguang 徐葆光
|Shō Kei||Kumi odori, a new form of dance-drama, created by Tamagusuku Chōkun for the entertainment of the Chinese envoys, is first performed for the envoys for the investiture of King Shō Kei.|
|1757||Qianlong||Quan Kui 全魁;
Chou Huang 周煌, 
|Shō Boku||Chou Huang compiles the Ryūkyū-koku shiryaku (Chinese: 琉球國志略), an account of Ryukyuan history and customs based on the records and reports of earlier Chinese envoys, Ryukyuan records, and Chou's own observations|
|1800||Jiaqing||Zhao Wenkai 趙文楷;
Li Dingyuan 李鼎元
|Shō On||investitutre of king.|
Fei Xizhang 費錫章
|Shō Kō||investitutre of king.|
|1838||Daoguang||Lin Hongnian 林鴻年;
Gao Renjian 高人鑑
|Shō Iku||investitutre of king.|
|1866||Tongzhi||Zhao Xin 趙新;
Yu Guangjia 于光甲
|Shō Tai||final investiture mission confirms Shō Tai as King of Ryūkyū.|
In the late 19th century, the Sinocentric tributary state system was superseded by the Westphalian multi-state system.
- Ryukyuan missions to Edo
- Japanese missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom
- Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China
- Foreign relations of Imperial China
- Ryukyuan missions to Joseon
- Joseon missions to Ryūkyū Kingdom
- Kōchi Chōjō
- Rin Seikō
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