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Winds, Waters & the Ryukyu Kingdom
Winds and waters 'fusui' (Japanese pronunciation) is the title of this essay. In Chinese this is pronounced
as 'fonshui' and in Korean as 'punsu'. In Okinawa the word has long been in use as 'funshii'. Over seven hundred years ago wind and water technology or 'fusui' was utilized to build housing and also in the construction of Shuri castle.
Each and every Okinawian village has mountains and hills to the rear while the sea spreads out in front. The actual houses are set to the north or center of the village. Moreover, as in Kyoto, Okinawian villages are laid out in a pattern similar to the grid of the game board known as 'Go'. This is said to be largely due to the influence of the concept of winds and water 'fusui'. It is unclear, even today, exactly when this concept was introduced to the Ryukyu Kingdom.
However, one thing we do know is that it was introduced by Chinese who sojourned to the
Kume-Sanjuroku area sometime after the 13th century. People who managed 'fusui' were known as 'Funshiimin' in Okinawa and from a long time ago they came in large numbers from within the Kume-Sanjuroku-Sei group. In fact my Grandmother was one of these people, but these days it is difficult to find a person who specializes in this work in the prefecture. But in Taiwan where 'fusui' is very prosperous, I heard there is a school for educating teachers about this winds and water philosophy.
In a word 'fusui' could be said to be a specialized study of geography
or topography, it is the only branch of Taoism (China's four thousand year old ancient religion) about which little is understood. Today many people mistakenly believe 'fusui' to be a world of superstition and magic and people who correctly understand it's
true essence are rare.
When the basic principle of 'fusui', known as "Zofutokusui" (water
bearing land, conception of wind, plus direction) is analyzed by
modern science it becomes a logical natural science that is quite
clear. 'Fusui' has many aspects of which the medical and health
sciences would approve. It's method is to skillfully incorporate
topographical features and natural energy, like sunshine and
seasonal winds, into everyday life.
For example, if the direction houses face follows the path the sun
shines throughout the year, then maximum amounts of sunlight will
enter which has a sterilizing effect on the interiors. Also, if
breezes are passing throughout the building then humidity will lessen
which discourages the breeding of bacteria and germs helping to
create a healthy, sanitary environment.
The science of 'fusui' is said to revolve around the maintenance of
good health by the inclusion of natural energy into the rhythm of
everyday life. Naturally negative elements such as, stagnated air,
heavy humidity etc., are excluded. Unlike the present day, it
was an era which had no coolers or medicines, so the people read
nature's powers and cleverly use that energy in their way of living.
By a strange coincidence, China's KonaniFukuken prefecture, Kanton
prefecture), Taiwan and Okinawa were especially rich areas for
'funshi' winds and water belief. This is thought to been the case
since these areas are, comparatively speaking, quite blessed by
an abundance of wind and sunshine. However, 'fusui' is not just
the science of winds and water. Along with the teachings of Taoism,
from which it originated, 'fusui' had an immeasurably huge
influence on the culture of Okinawa. For instance, the customs
of Sisa, Hinpun, Hinukan, Simi, the patron saint of Itoman Hare,
Uchikabi, Faizai etc., are all based in Taoism.
The grand purpose of 'fusui' is "Sho Fuku Jo Sai"(introducing luck and excluding unhappiness). Actually 'Fuku' means health or wealth, a kind of material gain, but it's important to remember that 'fusui' originated from Taoism which is very much a fundamentalist Chinese religion. Within those teachings are the techniques of eternal youth, Kanboujutsu (a kind of self protection) and richness. The depths and aspects of Taoism are broad, even different Gods can be tolerated without trouble and considered Taoist gods. The Christian's Virgin Mary, in her white robed guise, can have a place, even the multi-foundered Mahomet, is worshipped as a single Taoist god.
Recently in Japan attention has began to be paid to 'fusui', and it's becoming a kind of boom. The area which is receiving the most influence, apart from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, is Japan's own Okinawa prefecture. Japanese Taoist and 'fusui' researchers are paying attention to Okinawa and the Ryukyu kingdom is continuing to looked at in a new light.
Fusui is based on "Sei"(power) called "Ryumyaku" which is an invisible thing like a
magnetic field or energy. ÒRyumyaku" starts from an imaginary holy mountain called
"Konron" and goes all around China and beyond the sea. It is said that "Konron" doesn't mean the Konron mountains in Sisen province, but instead refers to Mt. Konron in India.
"Ryumyaku" goes all around China and Fukken province, starting from a small rock island called Gokomon which marks the location of the Binko river mouth, until it finally ends up in Taiwan and Ryukyu. In addition Fusui ruled the ancient Chinese world in regard to the design and construction of royal palaces.
From the 10th century to the start of the 15th century, four royal dynasties were born and
existed throughout the same time in the area surrounding the East China sea. To the West there was the Ming dynasty in China. To the North there was the Ri dynasty in Korea. To the East there was the Yamato dynasty in Japan. And to the South there was the Ryukyu Kingdom. These four dynasties each built their own royal palace, which due to their common connection with the Japan current and seasonal winds, bore similar aspects. There is Shikin jo in China, Keihukuguu in Korea, Kyotogosho in Japan and of course there is the palace called Shuri-jo in the Ryukyu kingdom. All these palaces were designed and constructed in accordance with Fusui theory.
However, why was Shuri-jo built facing due West when the other Chinese, Korean and Japanese palaces were all built with the North to the rear and facing South? According to Fusui theory, the almighty powerful Emperor should sit with North star, who was a God of protection, behind him. Then naturally the Emperor's supporters would sit facing him to the North. This is the origin of the well known Japanese phrase "Hokumenn no bushi" meaning "Northward facing samurai". Using this directional logic as a base it would appear that Shuri-jo was an exception, different from the overall principle.
However, there is a principle of Fusui that says order must take
precedence. That order is no.1 mountain, no.2 water, no.3 position Plus there is another important order consisting of no.1 "sei" power, no.2 shape, no.3 direction. Except for direction and position, Shuri-jo completely satisfies both order's first two conditions of precedence. To satisfy the requirements of Fusui there should be a mountain to the rear of the palace and a pond set in the front. To the right there should be a road and to the left a river. This configuration would then mean that four Gods were assembled and that the area is an ideal place for the "Sei"(power) called "Ryumyaku". In Kyoto these elements are represented by the mountain 'Genbu', the pond 'Sujaku', the road 'Byakko' and the river 'Seiryu'. If Shuri-jo is checked for these conditions we find that the mountain is 'Benga-dake', the road runs from 'Enkakuji' to 'Kitayama', the river is Kinjogawa' and the pond is called 'Ryutan'. Thus the principle of four Gods converging is perfectly met.
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Shohashi diplomacy curbed infamous Wako
Early Sho dynasty and Hachimandaibosatu connection
Professional battle groups (Mercenaries)
A peaceful coexistence mysteriously existed between the early Sho dynasty, established by Shohashi in
1429, and the Wako. This was indicated by the fact that the tribute ships dispatched by the Ryukyu kingdom never once came under Wako attack.
Wako was a name coined by the Chinese meaning a gang that robbed and pillaged in China and Korea. Originally "Wa" meant Japan while "Ko" carried the meaning of threat.
At that time the majority of Japanese venturing out to foreign lands were not Wako, rather they were merchants intend on trade with foreigners. However, there were times when the merchants' business would take a turn for the worse, i.e., military force was used against them or they needed to arm themselves against Chinese pirates. For this reason they often had to employ 'Ronin' or lordless Samurai as body guards to ensure their own personal safety.
Through their trade these merchants played a role that helped the spread
of civilization and culture. But from the Chinese viewpoint their activities
could be seen as a type of Japanese threat (Wako). With this in mind it is
necessary to historically rethink the existence of the Wako.
At any rate a great number of Wako ships forming large fleets, comprised of more than twenty ships loaded up with more than 2000 men plus a great many war horses, are thought to have been traversing the East China sea at that time.
In 1447 (three years before Shohashi's death) when the Wako, in a group
2000 men strong, attacked Neiha, China, one hundred Chinese soldiers
were sacrificed and three hundred residents plus 4,400 koku (792kl) were
plundered. The Wako were skillful at using the sword, bow and lance so they fought on land rather than on the sea. The Chinese feared them and termed their fighting style "Kochojin"(butterfly formation) or "Chodajin"(snake formation). The Wako were a professional force and the strongest in Asia due to their experiences of war against the Ashikaga shogunate, on the North reign side. They would go ashore and skillfully attack coastal villages one after another, often ending up 400km or more inland.
For people in China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam etc., fear of the Wako was like fear of the devil himself. Even the slightest rumor of an attack was enough to make the Chinese abandon their coastal villages and flee inland. It's said that an encounter with the Wako could be avoided only by intervention of China's regular army.
The Wako not only pillaged and looted, but also carried off people to be sold as slaves in other lands. In this era before agricultural machinery existed, prisoners were sold into slavery to provide forced labor on farms.
From the King Satto period (latter half of fourteenth century) the Ryukyu Kingdom would buy Korean prisoners who had been carried off by the Wako and accommodate them in refugee housing that they built in Naha. Then when the prisoner numbers reached a certain level the Ryukyu Kingdom would send the prisoners back to Korea bearing gifts.
Wako activity can be divided into two eras; the first half (fourteenth and fifteenth century, Nanboku-cho era and Muromachi era) and the latter half (sixteenth century, the end of Muromachi era and Aduchi-Momoyama era) Early Wako raids were a mixture of looting and kidnapping people, whereas in latter days the raid focus was mainly on goods. In particular they wanted raw silk, art objects and coinage and the area they attacked was mainly the southern part of central China. Actually the latter Wako was made up of only 10% Japanese, it is recorded that the remaining 90% were Chinese seaside gangs.
Heraldic triple eddy design
From the 15th century, spanning over 150 years, the Ryukyu Kingdom's tribute fleet, which numbered over 400 ships traversed the East China Sea, carrying tributes to China and engaging in trade with South East Asian countries. Throughout the same time the Wako ships were actively terrorizing the seas, but the Ryukyu Kingdom's tribute ships voyaged freely and not a single one of them was ever attacked.
Mr. Munetoku Kadena, local historian, says "Okinawa never once came under Wako attack" in his book 'Revision of Ryukyu History'. Also he said "When you think of all those hundreds of years that the tribute ships always, without fail, purchased Korean slaves from the Wako, you have to suspect that surely they were conspiring with them all along".
The tribute ships were well known as treasure ships, they transported South East Asia's aromatic tree, pepper, exquisite Chinese pottery, copper, medicines, leopard skins and carrots from Korea, Japanese folding screens, swords, fans etc. All the rare things in the world. However, even with this kind of temptation the Wako still didn't attack these ships.
Probably the reason why the Wako didn't threaten the tribute ships was that a safety guarantee had been agreed upon between the early Sho dynasty established by Shohashi in 1429, and the Wako.
Shohashi had a signal flag consisting of a crest in the shape of three heraldic designs of a counterclockwise eddy flown on all seaward bound tribute ships. This mark of three heraldic eddy designs is the symbol of the God of war worshipped by the samurai, the Wako and Usa-Hachimangu shrine in Oita prefecture which enshrines Hachimandaibosatsu. Hachimangu shrine is well known as the tutelary god of the Genji family who derived from Chinzaihachiro Minamotono Tametomo who, in turn, came to Ryukyu.
In addition, Shotoku, who became the last of the early Sho dynasty rulers, built Naha Hachimandaibosatu to commemorate bringing Kikai Is under control. Plus, when he ascended to the throne as the Ryukyu King he named himself Hachiman's Aji.
The ships the Wako sailed were known as Hachiman ships in China and their ships' flag-mark was the Hachiman signal. This is indicative of their connection with the Ryukyu Kingdom.
The Wako flags and the early Sho dynasty's three heraldic eddy flags are well known historical facts. However, there still are mysteries about them which have yet to be made clear. For instance, the Wako could put a ship flying the Ryukyu Kingdom's three heraldic eddies flag into any of the Ryukyu islands and freely supply themselves with food and water. Izena and Iheya weren't the only food and water supply places, Sakishima Miyako and Yaeyama were also included. If there was a secret agreement between the two groups, then it could be understood why the tribute ships never came under Wako attack.
Shohashi's skillful diplomacy
There was yet another factor that influenced the relationship between the Wako and the Ryukyu Kingdom. This was the fact that the early Sho dynasty actually appointed the Wako leader. At the start of the 15th century, there was a person called Sata Saemontaro who was the great leader of the Tsushima Suigun (maritime forces). The Sata family had the power to negotiate with the Ri dynasty in Korea instead of the So family (who were the leaders of Tsushima). An indication of Saemontaro's power was that he once upset a decision by the Ri dynasty that Tsushima should become under the direct control of Keishodo.
Saemontaro's son, Tsushima's Rokuro Jiro, had the duel role of being Wako leader as well as his state's representative concerning Ryukyu trade The Korean prisoners sold by the Wako were sent back to the Ri Kingdom via a route, specified by Rokuro Jiro, which expanded the trade of Tsushima. Rokuro Jiro's appointment as Wako leader was made in light of his capacity of advisor to the Ryukyu Kingdom, who, in turn ruled him as one of their own staff. The Ryukyu Kingdom made free use of such hard-nosed diplomacy to maintain a policy of peaceful coexistence with the Wako.