- Japanese: 遣隋使 (kenzuishi)
The kenzuishi, literally "ambassadors dispatched to Sui", were formal missions to China organized by the Imperial Court in the early seventh century, for the purposes of trade, and in order to learn about, adapt, and adopt Chinese technologies, legal systems, political systems, and the like. After the fall of the Sui dynasty, the Yamato state continued for roughly two centuries to send missions, now called kentôshi (lit. "envoys dispatched to Tang") to China (now under the Tang dynasty).
Roughly three to six kenzuishi missions were sent to Sui dynasty China between the years 600 and 614. These missions generally consisted of two ships which sailed north from Hakata (Fukuoka), following the Korean coast before crossing the Yellow Sea and arriving in Shangdong. At this time, the Yamato state refused to submit to Chinese authority, and to pay tribute.
A mission to Sui in 607 was led by Ono no Imoko. He was dispatched by Shôtoku Taishi in the 7th month of that year, and met with Empress Yang in Luoyang in the 3rd month of 608. It was during this meeting that he is said to have conveyed a message containing the phrase 「日出づる処の天子、書を日没する処の天子にいたす。恙なきや。」 (“The Son of Heaven in the Land where the Sun Rises sends this message to the Son of Heaven in the Land where the Sun Sets. Are you well?”), today a very famous and very early use of the term "Land of the Rising Sun" to refer to Japan. Imoko returned to the Japanese islands shortly afterwards, arriving in Kyushu in the 4th month of 608, along with Pei Shiqing, a Chinese envoy, and arriving in Asuka in the 8th month. The following month he turned around and escorted Pei back to China, where he remained for roughly one year, returning once again to Yamato in the 9th month of 609.
- Used here interchangeably with Wa. Both terms refer to the Japanese state; the term "Japan" itself is avoided as the extent to which the term should be applied to any period prior to 1868, let alone to this early period, is controversial.
- Gallery labels. Imperial Envoys to Tang China : Early Japanese Encounters with Continental Culture Exhibition. Nara National Museum. April through June 2010.