This is a short summary of the “Golden Age of the Ryukyu Kingdom” and its relationship to it’s evolving Martial Arts. In order to understand the Life Protection Arts of Okinawa we need to look into the early history of the Ryukyu Kingdom itself. Researching the Kingdoms past can be very difficult since virtually all written documentation's where destroyed during WWII and the allied bombing of the island.
This division has been traditionally interpreted as the result of a rebellion against the authority of King Tamagushuku which split the country into three powerful factions, but some scholars think this was a later interpretation of the facts and that the so-called “kingdoms” were simply three powerful feudal areas which were contending for supremacy and which were finally brought together under King Sho Hashi of the Central Kingdom in 1429. It was in the reign of Sho Hashi that the Emperor of China first conferred upon the king the family name of Sho (pronounced Hsiang in Chinese), sent rich gifts of lacquer and embroidered ceremonial robes to the king, and gave to the kingdom a great lacquered tablet upon which were inscribed the characters for Chuzan.
Hachimachi (Shuri ofu).
A kind of hat showing the wearers social status by
means of colors and patterns. Purple and yellow
showed the noblest rank, then came scarlet and green,
and blue showed the lowest .
First of all, a system of status ranks was established, headed by the king. For example, the color and pattern of the turban-like hachimachi worn by men served to demarcate status differences. The status of the king’s retainers was also indicated by the composition of the kanzashi men wore in their hair. Needless to say, because this system of status ranks was set up around the King and his family
and the elites who served the king, the result was its solidification into a status system of the royal family and elite social strata.
Second, a system of official ranks was established. The retainers serving the king were granted a variety of formal positions in government and titles, and were formed into a hierarchical organization. The central organ of this administrative structure was located in the Shuri castle, and was generally called the “Royal Government”
Ryukyu Kingdom Caste System
The Pechin were part of a complex caste system that existed in Okinawa for centuries, they were the feudal warrior class that was charged with enforcing the law and providing military defense to the nation, Okinawan or Ryukyu Kingdom.
was noted by the color of his hat.
Aji or Anji : Descendant of Prince,
- Shizoku - privileged classes
- Ueekata or Oyakata :Lord, High-Ranking Official
- Pekumi : Official
- Satunushi Pechin : Middle Official
- Chikudun Pechin : Lower Official
- Satunushi : Upper Attendant
- Chikudun : Lower Attendant
- Heimin : Commoners
The Ryukyu Pechin was not completely without weapons, historians in Okinawa have recovered documents that state that the Satsuma outlawed the ownership and sale of firearms in Okinawa. However the Pechin class and above were allowed to keep firearms that were already in their family's possession.
"There is further documentation that in 1613 the Satsuma issued permits for the Ryukyu Samurai to travel with their personal swords (tachi and wakizashi) to the smiths and polishers in Kagushima, Japan for maintenance and repair. From the issuance of these permits, it is logical to infer that there were restrictions on the Ryukyu Samurai carrying their weapons in public, but it is also clear evidence that these weapons were not confiscated by the Satsuma."
along with various chieftains, ministers, and other courtiers would line up in rows in the "Una" (courtyard) where a solemn Chinese style ceremony would be performed. Here are
some Pictures taken by Mr. Tom Corrao of the re-enactment of the ceremony which he attended in 2002.
The administrative organization of the Ryukyu Kingdom was comprised of the Shuri Royal Government. Headed by the King and a regent as well as three prime ministers “Sanshikan” (Council of Three) with various named civic offices under them. A Ministerial class called the Omotejyuugonin organized of fifteen members from the civic offices studied
issues of concern to the administration and reported their findings to the top ministers.