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Japanese missions to Ming China

Japanese missions to Ming China represent a lens for examining and evaluating the relationships between China and Japan in the 15th through the 17th centuries.[1] The nature of these bilateral contacts encompassed political and ceremonial acknowledgment as well as cultural exchanges. The evolution of diplomatic ties accompanied the growing commercial ties which grew over time.[2]

Nineteen trade missions traveled from Japan to China between 1401 and 1547.[3][4] The main trade goods exported from Japan were Japanese swords, copper, and sulfur; from China, copper coins, raw silk, and silk fabrics.[4] Every one of these missions were headed by a Zen Buddhist monk from one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan (京都五山, Kyoto gozan) or "five great Zen temples of Kyoto",[5] consisting of Nanzen-ji, Tenryū-ji, Shokoku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji and Manju-ji.[6]

Tally trade

The economic benefit of the Sinocentric tribute system was profitable trade. The tally trade (勘合貿易, kangō bōeki in Japanese and kanhe maoyi in Chinese) was a system devised and monitored by the Chinese.[7] The tally trade involved exchanges of Japanese products for Chinese goods. The Chinese "tally" was a certificate issued by the Ming. The first 100 such tallies were conveyed to Japan in 1404. Only those with this formal proof of Imperial permission represented by the document were officially allowed to travel and trade within the boundaries of China; and only those diplomatic missions presenting authentic tallies were received as legitimate ambassadors.[5]

Over time, the conditions of this mutually beneficial tally trade would evolve beyond its initial perimeters.

Selected missions

Year Sender Envoys Chinese monarch Comments
1401–1402 Yoshimochi[8] Soa (祖阿) Yongle The formal diplomatic letter conveyed to the Emperor of China was accompanied by a gift of 1000 ounces of gold and diverse objects;[8] returned with Ming ambassadors Tianlun Daoyi (天倫道彝) and Yian Yiru (一庵一如)
1403–1404 Yoshimochi Kenchū Keimitsu (堅中圭密) Yongle Keimitsu was chief abbot of Tenryū-ji monastery.[9] the mission party returned with Ming ambassadors Zhao Juren (趙居任) and Zhang Hong (張洪);[10] also accompanied by monk Daocheng (道成); conveyed "Yongle tallies"
1404–1405 Yoshimochi Myōshitsu Bonryō (明室梵亮) Yongle First tally vessel, returned with Ming ambassador Yu Shiji (俞士吉)
1405–1406 Yoshimochi Minamoto no Michikata (源通賢) Yongle On orders of Ming emperor, repatriated captured Chinese pirates; returned with Ming ambassadors Pan Ci (潘賜) and Wang Jin (王進)
1406–1407 Yoshimochi Kenchū Keimitsu (堅中圭密) Yongle Tribute mission of gratitude to the Ming; returned with Ming ambassador
1407 Yoshimochi Kenchū Keimitsu (堅中圭密) Yongle With an embassy of 73, Keimitsu paid tribute and returned captured pirates
1408–1409 Yoshimochi Kenchū Keimitsu (堅中圭密) Yongle the large mission party consisted of 300;[11] Keimitsu paid tribute, offered captured pirates, and returned with Ming ambassor Zhou Quanyu (周全渝)
1410–1411 Yoshimochi Kenchū Keimitsu (堅中圭密) Yongle Bringing news of installation of Shōgun Yoshimochi; returned with Ming ambassador Wang Jin
1433–1434 Yoshinori Ryūshitsu Dōen (龍室道淵) Xuande Embassay of 220; returned with Xuande tallies; accompanied by Ming ambassadors Pan Ci and Lei Chun (雷春)
1435–1436 Yoshinori Jochū Chūsei (恕中中誓) Zhengtong Returned with remaining Yongle tallies
1453–1454 Yoshimasa Tōyō Inpō (東洋允澎) Jingtai Embassy of 1200 (350 reached the capital); returned with Jingtai tallies
1468–1469 Yoshimasa Tenyo Seikei (天與清啓) Chenghua Returned left over Jingtai tallies to Ming and returned with Chenghua tallies
1477–1478 Yoshihisa Jikuhō Myōbō (竺芳妙茂) Chenghua Embassy of 300
1484–1485 Yoshihisa Ryōhaku Shūi (了璞周瑋) Chenghua
1495–1496 Yoshizumi Gyōbu Jumei (堯夫壽蓂) Hongzhi Returned with Hongzhi tallies
1509 Yoshitane Song Suqing (宋素卿) Zhengde Solo Hosokawa mission
1511–1513 Yoshitane Ryōan Keigo (了庵桂悟) Zhengde Party of 600; returned with Zhengde tallies; returned leftover tallies from the Jingtai and Chenghua eras
1523 Yoshiharu Sōsetsu Kendō (宗設謙道)
Rankō Zuisa (鸞岡瑞佐)
Jiajing Ōuchi had over 100 in party; Hosokawa had over 100; each domain sent own chief ambassador; parties clashed at Ningbo
1539–1541 Yoshiharu Koshin Sekitei (湖心碩鼎) Jiajing Party of 456; solo Ōuchi mission
1547–1549 Yoshiteru Sakugen Shūryō (策彥周良) Jiajing Party of 637; Ōuchi vessels; returned Hongzhi and Zhengde tallies

See also


  1. ^ Mizuno, Norihito. (2003). China in Tokugawa Foreign Relations: The Tokugawa Bakufu’s Perception of and Attitudes toward Ming-Qing China, pp. 109-112.
  2. ^ Fogel, Joshua A. (2009). Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time, pp. 110-113; publisher's blurb.
  3. ^ 日明貿易と博多 (in Japanese). Fukuoka City Museum. Archived from the original on 22 October 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  4. ^ a b 日明貿易 (in Japanese). Kotobank. Archived from the original on 12 February 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b Fogel, p. 27.
  6. ^ Baroni, Helen Josephine. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism, p. 116.
  7. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan Encyclopedia, p. 471.
  8. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 323.
  9. ^ Verschuer, Charlotte von. (2006). Across the Perilous Sea : Japanese Trade with China and Korea from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Centuries, p. 113.
  10. ^ Goodrich, L. Carrington et al. (1976). Dictionary of Ming biography, 1368-1644, Vol I, p. 85.
  11. ^ Verschuer, p. 114.


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Japanese missions to Ming China
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