Quan Kui

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  • Died: 1791
  • Chinese/Japanese: 全魁 (Quán Kuí / Zen Kai)

Quan Kui was a Chinese bureaucrat and diplomat who led the 1756-1757 Chinese investiture mission to the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, where he officially invested Shô Boku, on behalf of the Qing Imperial Court, with the title and powers of King of Ryûkyû.

A Manchu, he held the post of imperial tutor at the Hanlin Academy[1], having passed the Chinese Imperial examinations (jinshi) in 1751[2].

On the way to Okinawa, the envoys' ship ran aground on coral, and was shipwrecked; everyone made it safely to shore on Kumejima, however, where they erected a shrine to Tenpi (aka Matsu or Mazu), Taoist patron goddess of sailor and of navigation, in thanks[3]. Before continuing on to the Ryukyuan port of Naha, the mission returned to Fuzhou, where it regrouped and set out for Ryûkyû aboard a new ship, arriving in winter[4].

After arriving in Shuri and performing the necessary ceremonies and exchanges of gifts, Quan Kui and his fellow envoys remained in Okinawa for roughly seven months[5].

They were presented by the king of Ryûkyû with a gift of 50,000 ounces of silver, as compensation for the many goods lost in the shipwreck. Upon the embassy's return to China, the Qianlong Emperor ordered that the money be returned, as such a gift imposed a heavy burden on the finances of the small island kingdom, and stated that the envoys should be compensated for their losses out of Fujian public funds; in an audience with the Emperor shortly afterward, however, Quan Kui and his vice-envoy Chou Huang expressed that the silver was given freely by the king, of his own goodwill, and the Emperor reversed his decision. However, learning that several members of the embassy had started fights while in Ryûkyû, and were excessively forceful about trying to unload their goods for trade, the Emperor reversed his decision once again, ordering that the funds be returned to Ryûkyû. Those directly responsible were sentenced - some killed, some beaten and banished. Quan Kui was pardoned, but Chou Huang was deprived of his title (but not of his post)[4].

An example of calligraphy attributed to Quan Kui and dated to his time in Ryûkyû (1756) survives today, in an Okinawan collection. Though it is said that Quan's calligraphy was quite poor, and that he generally had a scribe write for him, the signature and seal on this work are his[1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Zen kai sho." Okinawa Prefectural Government. Ô-chô jidai no bijutsu to sho (王朝時代の美術と書, "Writings and Art of the Dynastic Period"). 2003. Accessed 14 October 2009.
  2. Schottenhammer, Angela. "The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges - China and her neighbors." in Schottenhammer (ed.) The East Asian maritime world, 1400-1800: Its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007. p45.
  3. "Shû Kô". Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia"). Ryukyu Shimpo (琉球新報). 1 March 2003. Accessed 14 October 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ch'en, Ta-Tuan. "Investiture of Liu-Ch'iu Kings in the Ch'ing Period." in Fairbank, John King (ed.) The Chinese World Order. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. pp135-164.
  5. Hirata, Tsugumasa (trans.). Chou, Huang. Ryûkyû-koku shiryaku. Tokyo: San-ichi Shobô, 1977.
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