On clans, houses, and families

Recently there was published an article about Lord Yabiku. In this article the author wondered who this Lord Yabiku was and concluded – for good reasons – that he might have been a member of the Ma-clan.

The ancestor of this Ma-clan was Ōshiro Aji Shinbu 大城按司眞武. The house he established was the House Dana 田名家, which was the main house (大宗) of his clan. All other houses are branch houses (支流).

Let me explain:

Within the Ma-clan, there are different “houses.” Each of these has their own genealogy. There are the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家), the Ma-clan (House Ishimine 石嶺家), the Ma-clan (House Nishibaru 西原家), the Ma-clan (House Sesoko 瀬底家), and the Ma-clan (House Toguchi 渡口家).

Now, these are the houses published in the official genealogies collected by the families and approved by the Bureau of Genealogies of the Royal Government of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. It is as safe as an ID card.

Now, there might have been other houses in such a clan, of which the genealogies were lost. So sometimes we cannot exactly determine the genealogy of a certain person.

When talking about such things it is not enough to just say “this clan” or “that clan,” or to talk about “family” as if it was all the same. No. You always need to clearly state the a) clan name and the b) house name.  For example, you clearly define a person by referring to him by personal name + generation + clan name + house name. That easy.

You need the personal name because there might have been numerous persons of the same generation. Sometimes you will also need the Chinese-style name, or the childhood name.

So, for example, you can say “Shinshin, 10th generation of the the Ma-clan (House Sesoko)”.

Perfect!

Just don’t forget to add the Kanji…

On the other hand, saying something like “He is descendant of the xyz family!!!” is muddy water in a place where weird animals exist.

And this is a huge problem in Karate history research.

Let’s take a look at the family records held by the Naha Museum of History:

  • Ma-clan (Main House Dana 田名家 ): Established by Ōshiro Aji Shinbu 眞武.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Ishimine石嶺家): Established by 8th Generation Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shinshō 眞韶, who was the 2nd son of Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shinshi 眞之, who was 7th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Matayoshi又吉家): Established by 9th generation Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shindai 眞代, who was the 1st son of Gima Pēchin Shinji 眞時, who was 8th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Nozaki 野崎家): Established by 9th generation Nozaki Chikudun Pēchin Shinō 眞徃, who was the 6th son of Gima Pēchin Shinji 眞時, who was 8th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Gima 儀間家): Established by 10th generation Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shinshi 真志, who was the 4th son of Gima Pēchin Shinshū 真周, who was the 9th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Nishihara 西原家): Established by 11th generation 眞本, who was the 2nd son of Tokashiki Pēchin Shinbō 眞房, who was 10th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Sesoko 瀬底家): Established by 11th generation 眞守, who was the 3rd son of Tokashiki Pēchin Shinbō 眞房, who was the 10 generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Toguchi 渡口家): Established by 11th generation 眞安, who was the 4th son of Tokashiki Pēchin Shinbō 眞房, who was the 10 generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Tokashiki 渡嘉敷家): Established by 11th generation Tokashiki Satonushi Pēchin Shinhitsu 真弼, who was the 2nd son of Tokashiki Pēchin Shinshō 真勝, who was the 12th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Tokashiki 渡嘉敷家): Established by 11th generation Shinkō 眞恒, who was the 3rd son of Tokashiki Pēchin Shinshō 眞勝, who was the 12th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Ōshiro 大城家): Established by 9th generation Oshiro Satonushi Pēchin Sei’i 盛位. Originator Ōsato Uēkata Seikō 盛行, 3rd son of Ōshiro Satonushi Pēchin Seijo 盛序.
  • Ma-clan (Branch House Yoshizato 吉里家): Established by 12th generation Tawada Chikudun Pēchin Shin’eki 眞易, who was the 2nd son of Tawada Chikudun Pēchin Shinshō 眞章, who was the 11th generation of Tawada Pēchin Shingyō 眞尭, who was the 9th generation of originator Ōshiro Aji Shinbu.

As you can see, there are a lot of houses within the Ma-clan.

Let’s take a look at the above House Ishimine 石嶺家 of the Ma-clan. The 7th Generation of the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家) was Gima Satonushi Pēchin Shinshi 眞之. His son Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shinshō 眞韶 branched off and started the new lineage of the Ma-clan (House Ishimine 石嶺家).

Here we can see a peculiarity of Ryūkyūan family relations and genealogies: although Shinshō 眞韶 branched off and started a new family lineage, he continued the generation count going back to the ancestor Ōshiro Aji Shinbu. In other words, with the establishment of his branch family, Gima Shinshō is counted as the 8th generation of the Ma-clan (House Ishimine 石嶺家).

Another example: The 10. Generation of the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家) was Tokashiki Pēchin Shinbō 渡嘉敷親雲上眞房. Three of his sons branched off and started new branch houses of the Ma-clan:

  1. His second son Shinhon 眞本 branched off and started the new lineage of the Ma-clan (House Nishibaru 西原家). He assumed the 11. generation of this house.
  2. His third son Shinshu 眞守 branched off and started the new lineage of the Ma-clan (House Sesoko瀬底家). He assumed the 11. generation of this house.
  3. His fourth son Shin’an 眞安 branched off and started the new lineage of the Ma-clan (House Toguchi 渡口家). He assumed the 11. generation of this house.

The above data were all verified in the official genealogies collected by the families and approved by the Bureau of Genealogies of the Royal Government of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

Now, as regards the family lineage of the senseis Matayoshi Shinkō, Shinpō, and Yasushi, according to the website of the Kingai-ryū Karate Okinawa Kobujutsu the family lineage is as follows:

  • 1. Ōshiro Aji Shinbu 大城按司眞武
  • (…)
  • 9. Shindai 眞代
  • 10. Shin’ei 眞盈
  • 11. Shinjun 眞順
  • 12. Shinyū 眞邑
  • 13. Shintoku 眞得
  • 14. Shinchin 眞珍
  • 15. Shinkō 眞光
  • 16. Shinpō 眞豊
  • 17. Yasushi 靖 (宗家十七代目])

To understand this, we jump back to the official genealogies of the Ryūkyū Kingdom:

Gima Pēchin Shinji 眞時 was 8. generation of the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家). His oldest son Shindai 眞代 branched off and started the new lineage of the Ma-clan, which he continued as the 9. generation. This is unambiguously indicated in that genealogy by the entry: “he has a separate genealogy” (別有家譜). It also means – just as in all other cases of branch families – that he continued to use the nanorigashira Shin 眞 of the Ma-clan, which goes back to the common ancestor Ōshiro Aji Shinbu. This nanorigashira 名乗頭 is the first character borne by all male family members of all houses of the Ma-clan, i.e. the main lineage (House Dana) as well as all branch houses. However, in some cases there are also exceptions to the rule.

Unfortunately, within the official genealogies of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the genealogy of Shindai 眞代 is nowhere to be found, and therefore the name of his branch house is not noted, and neither are his sons who would have continued this specific house. But the Ujishū (collections of family records) of Naha City Museum of History as shown earlier say that 9th generation Gima Chikudun Pēchin Shindai 眞代 established the Ma-clan (Branch House Matayoshi又吉家).

According to the website of the Kingai-ryū Karate Okinawa Kobujutsu, Shindai 眞代 had been granted the territory name of Matayoshi 又吉 village located in Urasoe 浦添 district. It should be noted that this was a “nashima” 名島, or a “territory in name only.” That means, he was not the feudal lord of this territory, but only assumed the name of it wihout any other implication. It also means that he was not of Pēchin rank, but below. And as we have seen, indeed he was “only” of Chikudun Pēchin rank.

The rest of the Matayoshi genealogy is very difficult. Best would be to get a copy of the respective Ujishū collection from Naha City Museum of History, and I might just do that in the future.

In any case, there were various reasons why people would be adopted back and forth form one house of a clan to another. For example, if one person had no male heir they would simply adopt someone from another house of the same clan to assume the headship of that specific house of that specific clan. Like this, if necessary people would frequently be repositioned within the various houses of one clan. Therefore, it is difficult to consider the belonging to a specfic house or a clan an absolute entity. Today there are probably hundreds and thousands of descendants of the Ma-clan.

Grave of Ōshiro Aji Shinbu 大城按司眞武, the ancestor of the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家).

Grave of Ōshiro Aji Shinbu 大城按司眞武, the ancestor of the Ma-clan (House Dana 田名家).

What I am trying to say here is that a clan does not equal a house, and a house does not equal a clan. Just as in the case of the Ma-clan there might have been a main house and numerous branch houses within one single clan. And for various reasons members would sometimes be adopted within the numerous houses of this one clan, with it changing their house name and their generation count. This happened frequently. So even if all the male members of one clan bore the same first character in their names, this is not to be understood as a family in the western sense. And an Okinawan clan heritage is by no means owned by one person from one house. There were many.

In other words, initially mentioned Lord Yabiku might have been a member of the Ma-clan. In that case, his the first character of his name would have been Shin. However, since neither his first name nor his house are known, and appears to be no genealogy in existence which mentions him, the article about Lord Yabiku concluded – for good reasons – that he might have been from the Ma-clan. This is a proper formulation.

In Karate history research, it is important to approximate towards results according to the primary sources available. This said, just because someone was a member of a certain clan allows only very limited – if any – inferences about his martial arts career.

© 2016, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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