Beijing approves the restoration and preservation of Ryukyuan graves

Beijing approves the restoration and preservation of Ryukyuan graves

Burial site of Ryukyuans who sought refuge in China around the time of the disposition of Ryukyu and appealed for the salvation of Ryukyu. Photograph taken on December 15, 2015 at Li Chan An Cun in Zhangjiazhen of Tongzhou District in Beijing, China.


January 4, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Tsuyoshi Arakaki

In 1879, around the time of the disposition of Ryukyu, or the annexation of Ryukyu, some Ryukyuans sought refuge in China to appeal for the salvation of the Ryukyu Kingdom. They eventually passed away and were buried in Beijing. Their burial site in Beijing is under threat of being developed without conducting an excavation survey. As of January 3, a private foundation and the Beijing mayor, which are responsible for the development of the burial site, decided on measures to restore and preserve the site. On the same day, Beijing University Professor Xu Yong, who has been urging the foundation and the Beijing mayor to work on restoring and preserving the site, notified Chairman Morikiyo Matayoshi of the Beijing-Ryukyuan Grave Restoration and Preservation Association about the news.

According to Chairman Matayoshi, the private foundation that is responsible for the development of the burial site has indicated that they are open to the idea of restoring and preserving the Ryukyuan graves. The Beijing mayor has also given his approval for this.

However, concrete plans regarding how the burial site will be restored and preserved, such as whether or not to build a monument and/or a memorial hall, have not been decided. Because of this, Beijing and Okinawa will need to decide on exactly how to go about restoring and preserving the burial site. Professor Xu has urged concerned groups and organizations in Beijing to restore and preserve the burial site, and has also acted as an intermediary for Okinawa. He recognizes that there is a need for the Okinawan prefecture to submit a written request.

Last April, the Beijing-Ryukyuan Grave Restoration and Preservation Association requested that the Okinawan prefecture urge the Chinese authorities to preserve the graves. Following this request, the Okinawan prefecture also worked to preserve the burial site by submitting a document dated May 13, 2016 to the Beijing mayor requesting for appropriate protective measures to be put in place.

There are plans to partially relocate some capital functions and construct a large theme park in the orchard area with the burial site. Last May, Okinawa researchers who viewed this as a serious problem established the Beijing-Ryukyuan Grave Visiting Group. They visited the burial site to meet with and consult the managers and landowners on whether building tombstones and caring for them would be possible. They also asked for the cooperation by the Beijing history researchers in researching, restoring, and preserving the burial site for the Ryukyuans, and received a positive response.

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Burial site of Ryukyuans in Beijing

Place where Ryukyuans are buried in Zhangjiazhen of Tongzhou District in Beijing, China. Buried here are about 14 envoys and exchange students from Ryukyu, including petitioners, who appealed for the salvation of Ryukyu around the time of the disposition of Ryukyu, or the Ryukyu annexation. A tombstone for Wang Daye, who was a descendent of the warrior class from Kume Village and held the title of Peichin, also stood here. The tombstone is now preserved at the museum in the Tongzhou District.

(English translation by T&TC and Chelsea Ashimine)

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