Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The First Sho Dynasty Ends and the Second Sho Dynasty Begins

Death of Sho Hashi Brings Instability

Sho Hashi, founder of the First Sho Dynasty, died in 1439, at age 68. He had held the kingdom together by developing the personal loyalties of each of the local aji in the country.  Now that he was gone, there was no clear leader around which the country could coalesce.  A series of kings followed in quick succession, each of whom died within five years of less of assuming the throne.

Turmoil in the Shuri Palace

Sho Hashi’s second son Sho Chu died five years after becoming king.

Sho Chu’s son Shitatsu was next in line, but he also died five years following his coronation.

Sho Hashi’s fifth son, Kimpuku, was next.  He built many roads around Shuri and Naha but died 3 years after becoming king.

Given the split loyalties of the various aji one has to wonder what the causes of death were for these rulers.  Was it natural causes or something more sinister?

The death of King Kimpuku led to a direct rivalry within the royal family for succession to power.  Kimpuku’s young son Shiro asserted his right to rule but was challenged by Sho Hashi’s sixth son.  Rioting between these factions erupted in Shuri castle.  In the course of the fighting, both rivals for the throne were killed. The palace building itself was burned and destroyed. Many precious treasures were lost in the fire.

When the dust settled, Sho Hashi’s seventh son Sho Taikyu became king.

Sho Taikyu strengthened ties with Japan and with Buddhism.  He built a number of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines during his reign.  However, he spent lavishly and significantly depleted the wealth of the country that had been built up by his predecessors. 

Sho Taikyu died in 1460, after only six years as king. 

Sho Toku

The new king, Sho Taikyu's son Sho Toku, age 21, was quite a lover of adventure.  Following in his father’s fiscally irresponsible footsteps, he continued to drain the royal coffers through various ventures, including military excursions. 

He adopted the Hachiman emblem of a circle with 3 comma-shapes inside as his crest.  Hachiman was the mythological Japanese god of archery and war, and the patron saint of the samurai, sea adventurers and pirates

Crest of The Ryukyu Kingdom - source: Wikipedia

In 1465 Sho Toku led an invasion of Kikai Island to the north, an island of no economic or military value.   His conquest of an island  was a success, but only served to further drain the economy of Okinawa.

Unhappy with the Sho Toku’s rule, the royal treasurer Kanemaro, along with other important figures, left Shuri court and returned to their own estates where they plotted a conspiracy against Sho Toku.  This culminated in the king’s death in 1469 at age 29, eight years after he became king.  He did not have a son to succeed him.

The Second Sho Dynasty

Kanemaro, no doubt with the support of the other aji who had deserted Shuri with him, assumed the throne of Ryukyu.  Forty years after the unification of Ryukyu by Sho Hashi, the First Sho Dynasty was now at an end.

Kanemaro adopted the name Sho En and started what is known as the Second Sho Dynasty.  This dynasty remained stable and lasted for another 400 years until Japan finally forced the dissolution of the Ryukyu kingdom following the Meiji Restoration.

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