German-Ryukyuan Contacts in the 19th Century

There were only few contacts between Germany and Ryukyu in the 19th century.

The first German to reach the Ryukyu Kingdom was probably missionary Dr. Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (1803–1851), who reached Okinawa in 1832 on a British ship.

The first German ship that reached the Ryukyu Kingdom was the “Rose” from Hamburg in 1851. Other than the Bristish, French, Russian, and US American ships, the “Rose” was a trading ship, not a government ship. Find a description of its short stay in Okinawa – and its adventure around the world – here.

Next, in July 1873, German tea-trading schooner R. J. Robertson stranded near Miyako Island and the crew was saved by islanders. To thank the islanders, the German Emperor had a memorial stele erected in 1876 in the port of Hirara, where it still stands today. 

During the final 20 years of the 19th century, Germany participated in the general sell-out of the former kingdom. As has been published by the Motobu-ryu, in 1884 alone the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin purchased 543 objects from Okinawa via the Japanese government.

Ryukyuan artifacts and art pieces etc. in European collections are described in minute detail in:

A total of 1483 Ryukyu-related items in 54 different museums have been verified in European collections. The bulk of these – in terms of numbers of museums and of items – is found in Germany: 529 items (35.7%) are found in 21 museums. The Netherlands follow, then come Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Norway and France. 

Foto: Ethnologisches Museum der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz.
Fotograf/in: Claudia Obrocki.

For more information, see my article Excerpts of Ryukyu-related items in the Museum of Ethnology, Berlin.

See also my article, Yari manufactured around the end of the Ryūkyū kingdom era rediscovered in a 1884 Okinawa acquisition of the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin

BTW, as a side note, while Dutch, here is another interesting topic: “Mathijs Hendrickszoon Quast und die Entdeckung der Bonin Inseln im Jahre 1639, genannt die “Quast Eylanden”

© 2020, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Unknown Ryukyu. Bookmark the permalink.