Ōshima Hikki – 005 – The Description of The Ryūkyūan Crew Members (I)

Since the House of Shiohira originally served the Sasu-no-soba 鎖の側 (Department of External Affairs), it was a high-ranking family involved in the liaison management with foreign countries. Therefore, still now the family serves as Zashiki officials.

In the country of Ryūkyū, ranks are determined in such a way that succeeding generations do not simply adopt a high rank attained from their predecessor. Even if the father served in the high-rank of an Uēkata, and although the first born son would succeed the family headship following his father’s demise, the first born son would not simply be appointed to Uēkata, but instead would first be appointed Satonushi Pechin 里之子親雲上 without a fief, or otherwise be appointed Pēchin with an administrative fief 地方親雲上, and only afterwards may further rise in rank and be appointed Uēkata; but not necessarily, and not hereditary. Based on the family ancestry of a family like that of Shiohira, the highest attainable official position attainable in the future is that of an Uēkata.

His parents died when Shiohira was still at a young age. He had eleven siblings and since his youth he served in official positions and also gradually found partners to marry for his brothers and sisters. Because at the present time he holds the fief called Shiohira, his official name is ‘Shiohira Pechin’ 潮平親雲上. The name of a Pēchin 親雲上 is derived from the name of the territory the person is assigned to. Shiohira 潮平 is the name of a village in the district (magiri 間切) of Kanegusuku 兼城 [in today’s Itoman City]. It has a fief income of about 30 koku 石. However, although 30 koku is the nominal fief income, it might be partly payed in actual goods as an ‘income in kind.‘ Therefore it might not actually amount to 30 koku in rice or grains.

Shiohira’s residence is situated in the Akabira 赤平 neighbourhood of Shuri 首里. He is from the Ō-clan 翁姓 and his name is Shiren 士璉; therefore his Chinese-style name is Ō Shiren 翁士璉. His given name is Seijō 盛成; therefore his full official name is Shiohira Pēchin Seijō. The Ō-clan is one of the four big clans of the country of Ryūkyū, namely the Princely Shō-clan 向, the Ba-clan 馬, the Mō-clan 毛, and the Ō-clan 翁.

Shiohira Pechin 潮平親雲上 was already called by the name Shiohira before he held the village as a territory. It is a byname of this family [reserved for the oldest son, who would become head of household and inherit the Shiohira fief].

Gisushi Satonushi Pechin 宜壽須里之子親雲 is Shiohira’s younger brother and therefore is also from the Ō-clan 翁姓. As regards the designation Satonushi Pechin 里之子親雲上: it denotes a Pēchin who did not yet receive a territory to administer. The name of the place Gisushi 宜壽須, therefore, in his case does not refer to an administrative territory, but is simply a byname used by this family.

Teruya Satonushi 照屋里之子 is Shiohira’s cousin, therefore he is also from the Ō-clan 翁姓. His Chinese-style name is Ō Bunryū 翁文龍. Although he belongs to a Pēchin household, he is currently ranked Satonushi 里之子. The rank of a Satonushi is similar to a noble’s page 小姓. On the current occasion he goes to Satsuma to study abroad.

Shiohira Shī 潮平子 is Shiohira Pechin’s third son. His first-born son is referred to as Shiohira Satonushi Pēchin 潮平里之子親雲上. His second-born son succeeds a different family of the Ō-clan 翁姓 [into which he was adopted] and is called Toyomura Pēchin 豐村親雲上. And Shiohira Shī 潮平子 is his younger brother. They have two sisters, one of whom is already married.

In the designation ‘Shiohira Shī’ is also found an example of the hierarchy of government officials [it refers to Samurē or Yukacchu; Tobe probably didn’t know these words] in the country of Ryūkyū. When a persons reaches the age of fifteen years, this is notified to the Sanshikan 三司官. With the coming-of-age-ceremony he changes his boyhood appearance (童形) by shaving the middle of his head and tying up his topknot. He is then permitted to use the byname of Shī 子, assumes the name of his parent, and is referred to as ‘so-and-so Shī’ – accordingly, in the case at hand, he is called Shiohira Shī. A certain number of years later he will be appointed to the rank of Satonushi 里之子, and after further time he will be appointed to the rank of Satonushi Pechin 里之子親雲上. Since right now Shiohira Shī is fifteen years old, he is only permitted to bear the title of Shī.

Since it is not possible to go to Satsuma in the rank Shī 子, as in ‘Shiohira Shi,’ he used the name ‘Goya’ 呉屋, using the example from a person from among the common people of Satsuma. His Chinese-style name is Ō Bunshū 翁文秀, his given name 名乗 is Seifu 盛布. Before he began using the title of Shī at age 15, he was referred to as Shiohira Sanrā 三郎 [with Sanrā being his childhood name].

Ufuda 大田, Uechi 上地, and Higaonna 東恩納 are all hereditary retainers 家頼.

Moromizato Chikudun 諸見里筑登之 and Sakima Chikudun 崎間筑登之 are warehouse clerks (tedai 手代). Tedai 手代 are subordinate government officials [a merchant, an employee between the head clerk and an apprentice; dealing with routine tasks or duties]. In general, Chikudun 筑登之 are lower ranking officials subordinated to a head official 頭役. Sakima belongs to the Chō-clan 張姓, his name is Tekichū 迪忠; therefore his Chinese-style name is Chō Tekichū 張迪忠, and his given name is Reibin 麗敏; therefore his official name is Sakima Chikudun Reibin.

The Buddhist priest Sogan 租願 went to Satsuma three times per ship to visit a temple. He is also a relative of Shiohira. Generally, Buddhist priests belonging to the country of Ryūkyū do not travel to a foreign country. However, Sogan went to Satsuma to visit a temple. Sogan 租願 had lived Miyako Island 宮古 [old name Taiheizan 太平山 =Tai Ping Shan, a name used in various 19th century Western accounts] for a long time. This time he will visit the Daiji-ji 大慈寺 temple in Satsuma, where he is a disciple of Rinsō 林叟 of the Raikō-in temple of the Rinzai sect 臨濟宗来光院. In the country of Ryūkyū all Zen priests belong to the Rinzai sect, which is a school of the Japanese Myōshin-ji 妙心寺 founded by Kanzan Kokushi 関山國師 [AKA Kanzan Egen (關山慧玄, 1277–1360)].

The name of the ship captain 船頭 is Takara 高良. Altough he is called a ‘ship captain’, the designation doesn’t mean that he is a person from a fishing village, but it means that he is the captain of a ship owned by the king. Because this is an official government position, he has the official rank of an Okite (Ucchi) Pēchin 掟親雲上. Therefore he also wore official headpiece and clothes 冠服 when he sailed to China before. The helmsman 柁取, the assistant clerks 佐事, the permanent extras 定加子 etc. are all subordinates of the ship captain 船頭. They are all officials and receive an official salary from the country of Ryūkyū.

Note on the Sasu-no-soba: The Sasu-no-soba 鎖之側 can be translated to “Department of External Affairs.” Sasu-no-soba is an indigenous Ryūkyūan term which figuratively means as much as ‘custodian’ or otherwise gate guard, sentry, sentinel, patrol, lookout, watchman. Because it was an office in charge of external affairs, it figuratively implies a guard of the kingdom’s gates to the outside world. It should be noted that one agency organized under Sasu-no-soba was the “Local Guard of all Coasts” (Shoura Zaiban 諸浦在番). That is, the Coast Guard of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

Note on Kerai: The original notation was 家礼, in the meaning of serving a household. It can also be written as 家頼 and 家来. It means:

  1. A person who serves and pledged allegiance to a feudal lord. A vassal, a retainer.
  2. A persons who is hired and serves a family or a household. An attendant, a valet, a servant. A vassal, a low ranking vassal.
  3. Homage of a child towards a person other than his father.
  4. A person who learns manners and traditions from a family of court nobility.

Note on the Zashiki official: It either specifically refers to the 4th minor court rank, or it generally refers to the class of the medium ranked Keimochi. Zashiki originally meant a room for meeting at Shuri castle. Only members of the upper Keimochi were allowed to enter the room.

Note on the Daiji-ji 大慈寺:  The Daiji-ji is a temple with a long history. It opened in 1340. Completely lost during the Haibutsu kishaku (廃仏毀釈) (literally “abolish Buddhism and destroy Shākyamuni”) in 1869, the temple was restored in 1879. In addition to the temple guardians found in front of the temple gate, since the foundation of the Daiji-ji a large number of valuable cultural assets were collected, such as a letter by Emperor Go-Kashiwabara 後柏原天皇 (1464–1526, reign 1500–1526), writings by the 1st generation founder Gyokusan Ōshō 玉山和尚, a written lesson by 2nd generation Gōchū Ōshō 剛中和尚, a Mahāprajnaparamita-Sūtra 大般若経 (sūtra of the supreme wisdom) produced in China durign the Song dynasty (960–1279) and others. Other than these, as a historic site of the old temple region, at the west side of the main temple building is found the gravesite of the lord of Shibushi castle 志布志城 , who built the Daiji-ji, as well as the tombs of successive generations of chief priests and the tomb of Ishizawa Kashiwashū Ōshō 石沢柏州和尚, a priest loyal to the emperor who helped the restoration of the Daiji-ji during the closing days of the Tokugawa shōgunate.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Motobu Naoki Sensei for his full and benevolent support in clariyfing various difficult issues in the translation of various terminology and historical backgrounds.


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