WA AND EARLY CONTACTS BETWEEN CHINA AND JAPAN

WA


Wa

Wa was the ancient Chinese name for Japan. The Wa (the Japanese pronunciation of an early Chinese name for Japan) were first mentioned in A.D. 57. Early Chinese historians described Wa as a land of hundreds of scattered tribal communities, not the unified land with a 700-year tradition as laid out in the Nihongi, which puts the foundation of Japan at 660 B.C. The earliest written records about Japan are Chinese documents about the people in Yayoi period Japan. The Han Shu (“History of Han”) and the Wei Chih (Wei Zhi, “History of Wei”) depict the world and customs of the tribal society of the Yayoi people. They tell of the Yamatai kingdom and a shamanness queen called Himiko (A.D. 187 to 248) who ruled over one hundred tribal chiefdoms

The Chinese text Hou Han Shu (Book of Later/Eastern Han, A.D. 432) describes the land of Wa (Japan) as such: “In the middle of the Lo-lang sea there are the Wa people. They are subdivided into more than a hundred ‘countries'[called communities in some translations]. Depending on the season they come and offer tribute”. Thirty of these countries were known to have had direct contact with China. Historians equate these “countries” with chiefdoms.[Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

The Chinese Wei Zhi accounts in 297 A.D. asserted that Yamatai kingdom was the strongest of those countries. Yamatai country was victorious after years of warfare. Gishi no Wajinden noted decades of warfare had ensued until “the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler”, i.e. when Queen Himiko came to the throne. Towards the end of 2nd century, around 30 small chiefdoms had allied with each other to form a confederated kingdom or state known as “Yamatai country” (Yamatai koku) with Queen Himiko at the helm. <^>

Yamato Period Wikipedia article on the Yamato period Wikipedia article ; Kojiki, Nihongi and Sacred Shinto Texts sacred-texts.com ; Book: Secret History of the Yamato Dynasty prnewswire.co.uk Imperial Household Agency kunaicho.go.jp/eindexList of Emperors of Japan friesian.com ; Buddhism and Prince Shotoku onmarkproductions.com ; Essay on the Japanese Missions to Tang China aboutjapan.japansociety.org . References: 1) The Chronicles of Wa, Gishiwajinden by Wes Injerd; 2) Wa (Japan), Wikipedia; 3) Excerpts from the History of the Kingdom of Wei, Columbia University’s Primary Source Document Asia for Educators. Asuka Wikipedia article on Asuka Wikipedia ; Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Asuka Historical Museum asukanet.gr.jp ; UNESCO World Heritage sites ; Map: Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Getting There: Asuka is accessible from Nara, Kyoto and Osaka by train.

Good Early Japanese History Websites: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Essay on Early Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Japanese Archeology www.t-net.ne.jp/~keally/index.htm ; Ancient Japan Links on Archeolink archaeolink.com ;Essay on Rice and History aboutjapan.japansociety.org

Jomon and Yayoi Websites Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, t-net.ne.jp/~keally/jomon.; Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of Asian Art. "Jomon Culture (ca. 10,500–ca. 300 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, October 2002, metmuseum.orgWikipedia article on the Jomon Wikipedia ; Dogu Exhibition at the British Museum britishmuseum.org ; Back to the Future furutasigaku. . Historical Parks Sannai Maruyama is a Jomon Site in Northern Honshu sannaimaruyama.pref.aomori.jp ; Yoshinogari Historical Park (between Tosu and Saga on the JR Nagasaki line south of Fukuoka) is an interesting historical park that brings to life the Yayoi Period (400 B.C. to A.D. 300). Website: yoshinogari.jp/en ;Good Photos of Jomon, Yayoi and Kofun Sites at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de . Prehistoric Archaeology of Japan” dil2.sakura.ne.jp is the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History website. It has pages on shell middens; plant exploitation and “Jomon subsistence“.

References in English on the Kofun Period: 1) Aston, W. G. (1896/1972). Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Tuttle. 2) Barnes, Gina L. (1988). Protohostoric Yamato: Archaeology of the First Japanese State. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 3) Edwards, Walter. (1983). Event and Process in the Founding of Japan: The Horserider Theory in Archaeological Perspective. Journal of Japanese Studies, 9:265-295. 4) Kidder, J. Edward, Jr. (1972). The Newly Discovered Takamatsuzuka Tomb. Monumenta Nipponica, 27:245-251. 5) Kidder, J. Edward, Jr. (1987). The Fujinoki tomb and Its Grave-Goods. Monumenta Nipponica, 42:57-87. 6) Kidder, J. Edward, Jr. (1990). Saddle Bows and Rump Plumes: More on the Fujinoki Tomb. Monumenta Nipponica, 45:75-85. 7) Ledyard, Gary. (1975). Galloping along with the Horesriders. Journal of Japanese Studies, 1:217-254. 8) Nagamine, Mitsukazu, and Mizuno Masayoshi, eds. (1977). Dogu Haniwa (Clay Figurines, Haniwa). Vol. 3 of Nihon Genshi Bijutsu Taikei (Archaeological Treasures of Japan), Tsuboi Kiyotari, gen. ed. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Good Japanese History Websites: ; Wikipedia article on History of Japan Wikipedia ; Samurai Archives samurai-archives.com ; National Museum of Japanese History rekihaku.ac.jp ; Japanese History Documentation Project openhistory.org/jhdp ; Cambridge University Bibliography of Japanese History to 1912 ames.cam.ac.uk ; Sengoku Daimyo sengokudaimyo.co ; English Translations of Important Historical Documents hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/iriki ; WWW-VL: History: Japan (semi good but dated source ) vlib.iue.it/history/asia/Japan ; Forums Delphi Forums, Good Discussion Group on Japanese History forums.delphiforums.com/samuraihistory ; Tousando tousando.proboards.com

Chinese Accounts of Wa


Image from the Shan Hai Jing

“The Wajinden records that 29 different kuni or “countries” existed and that three of these were ruled by “kings”. One of them was Ito where “there have been kings for generations, subject to the queen’s kuni [Yama’ichi] they rule”. Experts have identified Ito to be Itoshima peninsula and the Hirabaru mound site is thought to contain the grave of Ito’s king or queen (because it contained 39 bronze mirrors and other rich burial grave goods associated with rulers of the highest order). [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

The Shan Hai Jing (“Classic of the Mountains and Seas”) is a collection of geographic and mythological legends whose age is uncertain, but estimates range from 300 B.C. to A.D. 250. The Haineibei jing “Classic of Regions within the North Seas” chapter includes Wa “Japan” among foreign places both real, such as Korea, and legendary (e.g. Penglai Mountain). One passage reads: Kai [cover] Land is south of Chü Yen and north of Wo. Wo belongs to Yen. Ch’ao-hsien [Choson, Korea] is east of Lieh Yang, south of Hai Pei [sea north] Mountain. Lieh Yang belongs to Yen. (12, tr. Nakagawa 2003:49) Nakagawa notes that Zhuyan refers to the (ca. 1000-222 B.C.) kingdom of Yan (state), which had a “possible tributary relationship” with “Wa (dwarfs); Japan was first known by this name.” <^>

The Han Shu “Book of Han”‘ (ca. A.D. 82) covers the Former Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 CE) period, but was not compiled until two centuries later. The Worén “Japanese” are included under the “Encounters with Eastern Barbarians” section [i.e. along with the Dongyi peoples]. It says: “The Wa dwell on mountainous islands southeast of Tai-fang in the middle of the ocean, forming more than one hundred communities. From the time of the overthrow of Chao-hsien [northern Korea] by Emperor Wu (B.C. 140-87), nearly thirty of these communities have held intercourse with the Han [dynasty] court by envoys or scribes. Each community has its king, whose office is hereditary. The King of Great Wa resides in the country of Yamadai.” (tr. Tsunoda 1951:1)

Near the conclusion of the Yan entry in the Dilizhi (“Treatise on geography”) section, it records that Wa encompassed over 100 guó “communities, nations, countries”. Beyond Lo-lang in the sea, there are the people of Wo. They comprise more than one hundred communities. It is reported that they have maintained intercourse with China through tributaries and envoys. (28B, tr. Otake Takeo , cited by Nakagawa 2003:50).

A second Wei history Weilüe (“Brief account of the Wei dynasty”), (ca. A.D. 239-265) is no longer extant, but some sections (including descriptions of the Roman Empire) are quoted in the 429 CE San Guo Zhi commentary by Pei Songzhi . He quotes the Weilüe that “Wo people call themselves posterity of Tàibó”. Taibo was the uncle of King Wen of Zhou, who ceded the throne to his nephew and founded the ancient state of Wu (585-473 B.C.). The Records of the Grand Historian has a section titled “Wu Taibo’s Noble Family”, and his shrine is located in present day Wuxi. Researchers have noted cultural similarities between the ancient Wu state and Wo Japan including ritual tooth-pulling, back child carriers, and tattooing (represented with red paint on Japanese Haniwa statues) as well as from etchings on Jomon figurines.

Wa, the Land of Dwarfs, Black-Teeth People and Slave Dogs


image from the Shan Hai Jing

The Chinese text Wei Zhi (“Records of Wei”) (A.D. 297), comprising the first of the San Guo Zhi “Records of the Three Kingdoms”, covers history of the Cao Wei kingdom (220-265 CE). The “Encounters with Eastern Barbarians” section describes the Worén “Japanese” based upon detailed reports from Chinese envoys to Japan. It contains the first records of Yamataikoku, shamaness, Queen Himiko, and other Japanese historical topics. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

One passage reads: “The people of Wa dwell in the middle of the ocean on the mountainous islands southeast of [the prefecture] of Tai-fang. They formerly comprised more than one hundred communities. During the Han dynasty, [Wa envoys] appeared at the Court; today, thirty of their communities maintain intercourse [with us] through envoys and scribes. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:8).<^>

On sailing from Korea to Wa and around the Japanese archipelago,the . For instance, Wei Zhi reads: “A hundred li to the south, one reaches the country of Nu, the official of which is called shimako, his assistant being termed hinumori. Here there are more than twenty thousand households. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:0) Tsunoda (1951:5) suggests this ancient Núguó (lit. “slave country”), Japanese Nakoku , was located near present-day Hakata in Kyushu.

Some 12,000 li to the south of Wa is Gounúguó (lit. “dog slave country”), Japanese Kunakoku, which is identified with the Kumaso tribe that lived around Higo and Osumi Provinces in southern Kyushu. Beyond that, “Over one thousand li to the east of the Queen’s land, there are more countries of the same race as the people of Wa. To the south, also there is the island of the dwarfs where the people are three or four feet tall. This is over four thousand li distant from the Queen’s land. Then there is the land of the naked men, as well of the black-teethed people. These places can be reached by boat if one travels southeast for a year. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:13)

“History of the Kingdom of Wei” (Wei Zhi) Account of Japan


image from the Shan Hai Jing

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Some of the earliest descriptions of Japan appear in Chinese dynastic histories — official documents commissioned by China’s imperial rulers. The “History of the Kingdom of Wei,” from around A.D. 297, included an extended account of Japan (called “Wa” by the Chinese) in an appendix chronicling the various “barbarian” peoples on China’s borders.” [Source:Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|> ]

According to the Chinese chronicle “History of the Kingdom of Wei (Wei Zhi)”: “The people of Wa [Japan] dwell in the middle of the ocean on the mountainous islands southeast of [the prefecture of] Daifang. They formerly comprised more than one hundred communities. During the Han dynasty, [Wa] envoys appeared at the court; today, thirty of their communities maintain intercourse with us through envoys and scribes. [Source: Adapted from Tsunoda and Goodrich, Japan in the Chinese Dynastic Histories, pp. 8.16; “Sources of Japanese Tradition, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene, George Tanabe, and Paul Varley, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 6-8; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|> ]

“In their meetings and in their deportment, there is no distinction between father and son or between men and women. They are fond of liquor. In their worship, men of importance simply clap their hands instead of kneeling or bowing. The people live long, some to one hundred and others to eighty or ninety years. Ordinarily, men of importance have four or five wives; the lesser ones, two or three. Women are not loose in morals or jealous. There is no theft, and litigation is infrequent. In case of violations of the law, the light offender loses his wife and children by confiscation; as for the grave offender, the members of his household and also his kinsmen are exterminated. There are class distinctions among the people, and some men are vassals of others.”

Origin of the Terms ‘Wa’, ‘Yamatai’ and ‘Nippon’


image from the Shan Hai Jing

Aileen Kawagoe wrote in Heritage of Japan: “The earliest mentions of the Japanese were made in various Chinese historical classic texts listed below in the sequence of their compilation dates. Wa (“Japan, Japanese”, from Chinese Wo , Hangul Wae ) is the oldest recorded name of Japan. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scribes regularly wrote Wa or Yamato “Japan” with the Chinese character which is thought to be synonymous with Yamatai until the 8th century, when the Japanese found fault with it, replacing it with “harmony, peace, balance”. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

According to Ichikawa’s Wafu textbook: During the early Han dynasty (205 B.C. – 9 CE) scholars standardised the script, as part of a reconstruction of knowledge following the devastating political upheavals of the short-lived Chin dynasty; the block script they chose remains largely unchanged and is still in use. Despite the Chin devastations – including book burnings, interring of scholars, horrific forced labour – it is still possible to trace the early development of many characters from archaeological inscriptions. Wa was formed by combining two pictograms: rice plant and open mouth. A rice plant has a strong central stem, but it is not brittle and – rather than snap – its pliancy allows it to bend and sway in a breeze. Rice is also the most important of the “five grains”, so that the combined characters forming wa conveys an ancient understanding of the relationship between peaceful state, social harmony and food security.

“During the Kofun period (250-538) when kanji were first used in Japan, Yamatö was written with the ateji for Wa “Japan”. During the Asuka period (538-710) when Japanese place names were standardized into two-character compounds, Yamato was changed to with a “big; great” prefix. Following the ca. 757 graphic substitution of for , it was written “great harmony,” using the Classical Chinese expression dàhé (e.g., Yijing 1, tr. Wilhelm 1967:371: “each thing receives its true nature and destiny and comes into permanent accord with the Great Harmony.”) <^>

“The early Japanese texts above give three transcriptions of Yamato: (Kojiki), (Nihon Shoki), and (Man’yoshu). The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki use Sino-Japanese on’yomi readings of ya “night” or ya or ja (an interrogative sentence-final particle in Chinese), ma or ba “hemp”, and to or to “rise; mount” or to “fly; gallop”. In contrast, the Man’yoshu uses Japanese kun’yomi readings of yama “mountain” and to tö or ato “track; trace”. <^>

“The early Chinese histories above give three transcriptions of Yamatai: (Wei Zhi), (Hou Han Shu), and (Sui Shu). The first syllable is consistently written with yé “a place name”, which was used as a jiajie graphic-loan character for yé “interrogative sentence-final particle” and xié “evil; depraved”. The second is written with ma “horse” or mó “rub; friction”. The third syllable of Yamatai is written tái or “platform; terrace” (cf. Taiwan ) or dui “pile; heap”. Concerning the transcriptional difference between Yamaichi in the Wei Zhi and Yamadai or Yamatai.” <^>

<

p><Although the change from Wa to ‘Nippon’, lit. “from the sun”, appears to have been motivated by a desire to get away from its perceived derogatory meaning, historically, it may have been influenced by changing dynastic power, with growing influence of the clans of Paekche-kingdom descended lineages.

How the Japanese Came to Be Called the ‘Wa’


image from Shan Hai Jing

The Gishi-Wajinden gives a description of Wa country and Wa people and also directions on how to get to the land of Wa. According to Winjerd: “Literally “Legend of the People of Wa,” one of the chapters in the 30th fascicle of the Gisho entitled “Account of the Eastern Barbarians (Toiden ).” Two other chapters are on the Ugan and Senpi[Xianbi] peoples of Manchuria, and the remaining eight chapters deal with other Manchurian as well as Korean peoples. The Wajin Account consists of 2008 2024 characters .., surpassing all the other accounts, only Kokuri coming close in depth of coverage. In entirety, the title of the work we are dealing with here would be Sangokushi, Gisho, Toiden, Wajinjo, i.e. “History of the Three Kingdoms, Books of Gi, Account of the Eastern Barbarians, Chapter on the People of Wa.” [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

Wa can be pronounced Wi or Wu. “A number of theories have been offered on the origin of this word: 1) what the Chinese heard when a Wajin was referring to himself, waga or ware, or even watakushi, though this term is modern; it is highly doubtful that the Wajin language was anything like the Japanese language today (see further comments in Appendix on the early language of the Wajin); 2) the people are subject to women, specifically Himiko (the — part of the character ~` means “woman”); another reading for this character is shitagau, or “obey”; 3) the people are similar to midgets or dwarves, as the Chinese character shows, though the left radical of the first character for dwarf (waijin) is different. Strangely, however, a number of histories of Japan in English explain that, to the Chinese, Wa meant “dwarf,” a stereotype I feel, however, is not supported by skeletal remains unearthed from this period when they are compared with those of neighboring Asian nations. See “Early Written Records” in the Preface for additional references for Wa. As mentioned before, in later chronicles the term “people of Wa” was replaced with “the country of Wa”. Still later, in the early 8th century, the Japanese themselves discarded the character for Wa because of its less-than-honorable meaning, and changed all references to their land to nihon (nippon), the current characters used for Japan, meaning literally “source of the sun.” Such change can be seen in the 2nd Kutojo‚ (10th century) and the Shintojo V (11th century).”…

Wa Contacts with China


Text of the Wei Zhi

The historian Wang Zhenping summarizes Wo [Wa] contacts with China: “When chieftains of various Wo tribes contacted authorities at Lelang, a Chinese commandery established in northern Korea in 108 B.C. by the Western Han court, they sought to benefit themselves by initiating contact. In A.D. 57, the first Wo ambassador arrived at the capital of the Eastern Han court (25-220); the second came in 107. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Wo diplomats, however, never called on China on a regular basis. A chronology of Japan-China relations from the first to the ninth centuries reveals this irregularity in the visits of Japanese ambassadors to China. There were periods of frequent contacts as well as of lengthy intervals between contacts. This irregularity clearly indicated that, in its diplomacy with China, Japan set its own agenda and acted on self-interest to satisfy its own needs. <^>

“No Wo ambassador, for example, came to China during the second century. This interval continued well past the third century. Then within merely nine years, the female Wo ruler Himiko sent four ambassadors to the Wei court (220-265) in 238, 243, 245, and 247 respectively. After the death of Himiko, diplomatic contacts with China slowed. Iyo, the female successor to Himiko, contacted the Wei court only once. The fourth century was another quiet period in China-Wo relations except for the Wo delegation dispatched to the Western Jin court (265-316) in 306. With the arrival of a Wo ambassador at the Eastern Jin court (317-420) in 413, a new age of frequent diplomatic contacts with China began. Over the next sixty years, ten Wo ambassadors called on the Southern Song court (420-479), and a Wo delegation also visited the Southern Qi court (479-502) in 479. The sixth century, however, saw only one Wo ambassador pay respect to the Southern Liang court (502-557) in 502. When these ambassadors arrived in China, they acquired official titles, bronze mirrors, and military banners, which their masters could use to bolster their claims to political supremacy, to build a military system, and to exert influence on southern Korea. (Wang 2005:221-222). <^>

Yayoi Trade and Relations Outside Japan

Kawagoe wrote: “As migrants and wet rice agricultural technology made their way from the continent into Japan, interaction and exchanges increased between the continent and Japan. The most crucial exchange was that of metal, in the form of ingots, weapons, tools and ceremonial items. Diverse other finished goods, including wooden and stone tools, cloth, body ornaments, coins, jewellery and the most coveted of all — Chinese bronze mirrors — were imported into Japan. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“The regional exchange network extended south to the Ryukyu Islands, and north to Hokkaido, westward into China and northeast Asia. Burial artefacts and Chinese historical documents indicate that powerful tribal leaders in Kyushu during the 1st century A.D. were sending diplomatic delegations or mission teams offering tribute to the Han dynasty Chinese outpost of Lolang in northern Korean peninsula. Kyushu was drawn into the tribute and trade system with the continent, and via that network, foreign goods flowed into western Japan, and through the network as well, information about Yayoi culture filtered back to the Chinese that was recorded in the Chinese dynastic histories.<^>

“In A.D. 57, it is recorded, the king of the Na country of Wa ((as Yayoi-era-Japan was known to the Chinese then) offered tributary gifts to the emperor Guang Wu of Late Han Dynasty of China. In return, a gold seal was presented by the Chinese emperor to the “king” of the country of Na. These events were recorded in the Han Dynasty’s Wei-shu records, and the archaeological find of a gold seal in 1784 on Shika-no-shima (Deer Island) in Fukuoka prefecture confirm that the event. A farmer by the name of Jinbe from Higashi ward, Fukuoka city, had found a seal of pure gold underneath a large stone as he was repairing the ditches in a rice field. The seal was 2.3 sq. centimeters and marked “Kan no Wa no Na no Koku O“. Now in the collection of the Fukuoka city museum, the seal has helped historians pinpoint the location of Na country in Fukuoka.” <^>


Yayoi influences from Korea


Contacts Between Japan and China in the Yayoi Period

Kawagoe wrote: “Burial artefacts and Chinese historical documents indicate that powerful tribal leaders in Kyushu during the 1st century A.D. were sending diplomatic delegations or mission teams offering tribute to the Han dynasty outpost of Lolang in northern Korea. But then the Han empire collapsed in AD 220. China became politically divided by civil war, with many short-lived kingdoms arising in different regions of the continent. And upon the fall of the Chin dynasty, the invasions of nomadic tribes from the north resulted in political dislocation of many clans and ethnic groups. This triggered the outflow of displaced migrants into Korea and very likely at some point, Japan, bringing with them Chinese techniques and knowledge. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Chinese diplomatic relations seemed to have until tribute missions resumed and delegations were sent once again just before 250 A.D: In the year 238, Queen Himiko (who, according to the Chinese chronicle Wei Zhi, was ruler of one the Wa countries based in the capital of Yamatai) sent a delegation to Tai-fang to request an audience at court in Lo-yang (Lo-yang was one of the Wei dynasty’s Chinese colonies in Korea). The delegation was received as an offer of tribute by a tributary vassal state as was the Chinese practice at the time and the event was recorded in Wajinden. Queen Himiko’s delegation had offered gifts of four male slaves and six female slaves along with two pieces of patterned cloth. Several diplomatic exchanges followed. <^>

“In 240, a Wei representative dispatched from the Tai-fang commandery, presented the queen with an imperial script and a seal with a ribbon, along with gifts of gold brocade, tapestry, swords and mirrors. Three years later an eight-member Wa delegation to Wei presented the emperor with slaves, native silk brocade, red and blue silk, a fabric robe, cloth, cinnabar, and a wooden bow with short arrows. In 245, the Wei court awarded Nanshomai a yellow pennant to be presented from the Tai-fang commandery. <^>

The next point of contact between the Chinese court and Japan was in 247 when Queen Himiko sent an envoy to the prefect of Tai-fang to request for Chinese imperial support, as she was facing conflict with the rival king of Kunu whose base lay to the south of Wa. After the death of Queen Himiko, when a female 13 year old ruler succeeded the throne of Himiko (following one failed male successor), diplomatic contact was once again made with the Wei court, offering gifts of slaves, pearls, jade magatama beads and brocade.” <^>

Ancient Japanese -Chinese Contacts


Circular jade from Jomon era Sannai-Maruyam site similar to circular jades from ancient China

Kawagoe wrote: “A chronology of Japan-China relations from the first to the ninth centuries reveals that there were periods of frequent contacts as well as of lengthy intervals between contacts. This irregularity clearly indicated that, in its diplomacy with China, Japan set its own agenda and acted on self-interest to satisfy its own needs. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“The historian Wang Zhenping summarizes Wa/Wo contacts with China and Chinese perception of Wa people: When chieftains of various Wa tribes contacted authorities at Lelang, a Chinese commandery established in northern Korea in 108 B.C. by the Western Han court, they sought to benefit themselves by initiating contact. In A.D. 57, the first Wa ambassador arrived at the capital of the Eastern Han court (25-220); the second came in 107. <^>

“In a flurry of activity during the third century, and within merely nine years, the female Wa ruler Himiko sent four ambassadors to the Wei court (220-265) in 238, 243, 245, and 247 respectively. After the death of Himiko, diplomatic contacts with China slowed. Iyo, the female successor to Himiko, contacted the Wei court only once. The fourth century was another quiet period in China-Wa relations except for the Wa delegation dispatched to the Western Jin court (265-316) in 306. With the arrival of a Wa ambassador at the Eastern Jin court (317-420) in 413, a new age of frequent diplomatic contacts with China began. Over the next sixty years, ten Wa ambassadors called on the Southern Song court (420-479), and a Wa delegation also visited the Southern Qi court (479-502) in 479. The sixth century, however, saw only one Wa ambassador pay respect to the Southern Liang court (502-557) in 502. When these ambassadors arrived in China, they acquired official titles, bronze mirrors, and military banners, which their masters could use to bolster their claims to political supremacy, to build a military system, and to exert influence on southern Korea. (Wang 2005:221-222)” <^>

One Wei Zhi passage (tr. Tsunoda 1951:14) records that in A.D. 238 CE the Queen of Wa sent officials with tribute to the Wei emperor Cao Rui, who reciprocated with lavish gifts including a gold seal with the official title “Queen of Wa Friendly to Wei”.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, figal-sensei.org *~*; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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