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Kochi Chojo

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  • Born: ??
  • Died: 1891, Fukien Province, China
  • Other Names: 徳宏 (J: Shô Tokukô; C: Xiàng Déhóng)
  • Japanese/Okinawan: 幸地親方朝常 (Kouchi ueekata Choujou)

Kôchi ueekata Chôjô was a Ryukyuan aristocrat known for leading a movement to petition the government of Qing Dynasty China to rescue the Kingdom of Ryûkyû from annexation by Meiji Japan, following the 1872 announcement by the government of Meiji Japan to do so.

It was typical at this time for Ryukyuan aristocrats to have multiple names. Chôjô held the title of ueekata of the domain of Kôchi, and was thus known as "Kôchi ueekata". He was also known as Shô Tokukô, or Xiang Dehong in the Chinese pronunciation, a name he would have used in China and in Chinese documents and communications[1].

Life

Details of his early life are unknown. In 1876, however, Chôjô left for China from Unten Harbor on the Motobu Peninsula, in the north of Okinawa Island, claiming he was simply crossing over to nearby Iejima[2]. Arriving in China, he adopted Chinese (Manchu) hairstyle and dress[3] and, with the Ryûkyû-kan in Fuzhou as his base, he began traveling to various parts, seeking to gather support for his cause, namely that of convincing the Qing government to aid Ryûkyû in remaining independent from Japan[2].

Chôjô gathered other Ryukyuans who, like himself, had fled for China, including Rin Seikô and Sai Taitei[4]. Together, they submitted numerous petitions to the Qing officials asking for help on behalf of the kingdom. Though there was little, if any, positive response, for a long time, Chôjô and others refused to give up[2].

Following Tokyo's unilateral abolition of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû and establishment of Okinawa prefecture in 1879, Chinese officials considered somehow restoring the kingdom with Kôchi Chôjô as the new monarch; Shô Tai, now in Tokyo, was inaccessible for this purpose. Recognizing Chôjô's influence and/or status, if not the possibility of this particular plan, Japanese officials in Tianjin demanded that Chôjô and his associates be turned over to them. Viceroy Li Hongzhang, the chief Chinese official handling the Ryukyu dispute, refused, and in fact ordered additional protection and financial assistance be given to Chôjô and his associates[5].

The idea of installing Kôchi Chôjô as king of Ryûkyû was formally suggested by the Chinese representatives in the official Sino-Japanese negotiations on the matter on 1880/8/15, but was ultimately rejected[6].

Kôchi Chôjô died in Fukien Province[2]. His son brought his Buddhist memorial votive tablet (tootoomee) with him when he emigrated to Hawaii. This tablet was later discovered by Roy Yonahara on the island of Maui, who donated it to the Maui Okinawa Center, which put it on display for a time before giving it to the Paia Rinzai Zen temple; the tablet, one of the only known extant records of the date of his death, was returned to Okinawa in June 2013 to be placed at Kôchi ueekata's grave.[7]

References

  1. "Kōchi Chōjō to ha" (幸地朝常とは, "Kōchi Chōjō is..."). Kotobank.jp. Accessed 17 September 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Kōchi Chōjō." Okinawa rekishi jinmei jiten (沖縄歴史人名事典, "Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History"). Naha: Okinawa Bunka-sha, 1996. p 28.
  3. Though the Manchu queue and certain other elements of fashion were mandatory in China since shortly after the establishment of the Qing Dynasty in 1644, over 200 years earlier, Ryûkyû had specifically requested and been granted permission to be excused from these requirements.
  4. "Kōchi Chōjō." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia"). Ryukyu Shimpo. 1 March 2003. Accessed 17 September 2009.
  5. Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Revised Edition. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p387.
  6. Kerr. p390.
  7. Ukwanshin News, Ukwanshin Kabudan, May/June 2013.
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