Letters and lists of gift items sent by Ryukyu Kings to the Edo government recommended for inclusion in Important Cultural Properties of Japan

Letters and lists of gift items sent by Ryukyu Kings to the Edo government recommended for inclusion in Important Cultural Properties of Japan

The letters and lists of gift items that Ryukyu Kings sent to the Edo government (Owned by the Tokyo National Museum).


March 20, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

Valuable documents revealing Ryukyu Kings’ ties to the Edo government may soon be on Tokyo’s list of important cultural properties. A collection of letters and gift-lists presented by the Ryukyu Kingdom to the elders of Edo was recommended for inclusion by the Council for Cultural Affairs on March 18. Elder was one of the highest-ranking government posts in the Edo government.

The Twenty-three documents include letters and lists of gift items the Ryukyu Kings presented to the elders of the Edo government for diplomatic missions made to show gratitude and congratulations. The documents are preserved by Tokyo National Museum and other institutions. A spokesperson of the council said, “The documents show the diplomatic relations and ceremonial exchanges between the Ryukyu Kingdom and Edo government. These are academically valuable.”

The documents include 21 letters the Ryukyu Kings such as Shotei, Shoeki and Shokei sent to the Edo government from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. These also include two lists of gift items the missions of the Ryukyu Kingodom presented to the Edo government. The Ryukyu Kingdom sent missions celebrating the appointment of the Tokugawa Shoguns and reporting the enthronement of the Ryukyu Kings to the Edo government. The documents include letters related to the missions including expressions of condolence when Shoguns died.

The gift items to the Edo government were awamori, abaca cloth and Ambergris.
A professor at the University of Ryukyus Kazuyuki Tomiyama said, “Preserved in the original condition, the documents are valuable. The Edo government strictly decided rules of writing documents and ranking officials. The Ryukyu Kingdom followed them. The Korean Kings exchanged letters with Shoguns.” He said the Kings of the Ryukyus exchanged with the elders, representatives of the Shoguns, because the Ryukyu Kingdom was under the rule of the Satsuma Domain.

The council recommended one listing for the National Treasures category and 50 for the Important Cultural Properties category. The National Institutes for Cultural Heritage own the documents. The council recommended to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that the documents be included in the cultural assets of Tokyo.

(English translation by T&CT)

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