- Established: 1674
- Other Names: 孔子廟 (Koushibyou; lit. "Confucius shrine")
- Japanese/Okinawan: 至聖廟 (Shiseibyou / Chiishinbuu)
The Shiseibyô, also known locally as Chishinbu, is a Confucian temple in Kumemura, in Naha, Okinawa. Originally built in 1674, and recognized as a gift from Qing Emperor Kangxi, it was one of the key centers of Chinese learning and Confucian observance in Kumemura.
Today, Naha is home to two reconstructions of the shrine: one opened in 2013 in the Matsuyama neighborhood, adjacent to the Fukushûen (Fuzhou Gardens), and one built in 1975 on the original site of the Tensonbyô, a Taoist shrine near Naminoue Beach. A statue of Confucius was also erected in 1975, on the original site of the Shiseibyô, near Izumisaki Bridge. All are run by the Kume Sôseikai, an organization founded in 1914 by descendants of the 36 Min families who founded and formed the core of the Kumemura community.
History & Layout
The shrine was first built in 1674, but traces its origins to 1610, when Sai Ken (Kiyuna ueekata), returned to Ryûkyû from China, having visited Confucius' birthplace, Qufu. He brought with him sacred images of Confucius and the Four Correlates (Mencius, Yanzi, Zengzi, and Zisi), and initiated the annual observance of Confucian rituals, held at the homes of locals.
In 1671, Kin Seishun, village head of Kumemura, received permission from King Shô Tei to build a Confucian temple to house the images. Construction began in 1672, and the main hall was complete in 1674; the images were installed by the first month of 1676. The temple grounds include five buildings, as well as one main gate, called the Shiseimon (至聖門). The main worship hall, called the Taiseiden (大成殿), is located directly across an open, grassy, square plaza, facing the main gate. It enshrines Confucius and the Four Correlates. Five-clawed dragon designs on the hall's pillars and stairs match those at the Confucius Shrine in Qufu. The five-clawed dragon is an exceptionally elite symbol, and is normally restricted to the use of the Chinese Emperor; contexts honoring Confucius are one of the few exceptions.
Two smaller shrines sit to one side of the plaza, on one's left as one enters the main gate and faces the Taiseiden. The first of these, the Tenpigû (天妃宮), enshrines Tenpi, also known as Mazu or Matsu, a goddess of the sea and of navigation. The other smaller shrine, called Tensonbyô (天尊廟), originally established on the site during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1403-1424), enshrines the spirits of those who have died in defense of the Ryûkyû Kingdom (or of Okinawa otherwise), along with a number of Taoist deities who are said to protect the kingdom, including Guan Yu, the Dragon King, and Jiǔtiān yìng yuán léi shēng pǔ huà tiānzūn, the greatest of the Taoist deities of lightning. It is said to contain an image of the supreme deity of Taoism brought to Ryûkyû by the 36 Min families who are alleged to have founded Kumemura. The Keiseishi, a small shrine to Confucius' father Shuliang He and the fathers of the Four Correlates, was constructed on the grounds in 1718.
The Meirindô (明倫堂), located across the plaza from the two smaller shrines, is regarded as the first public school in Okinawa. Originally established in 1718 by Tei Junsoku as a school for the aristocratic children of the exclusive Kumemura community, it hosted classes in Chinese language, the Confucian classics, and bureaucratic & diplomatic skills, as well as serving as the administrative center of Kumemura from 1769 onwards. The Meirindô later took on functions as a municipal office, and then as a public school; today, public events, lectures, and Confucianism classes take place there.
Following the overthrow of the kingdom, in 1879, the temple grounds, its buildings, libraries, and accoutrements became the property of the State. They were granted back to the city of Naha in 1902, and then transferred to the Kume Sôseikai in 1915. This is an organization founded in 1914, which then oversaw the temple, and organized the annual Confucian ceremonies. After the destruction of the temple in 1944-1945, the association was revived in 1962.
The temple was rebuilt in 1975 following its destruction in World War II, on the original site of the Tensonbyô, in Naha's Wakasa neighborhood. This was done in part because a major thoroughfare, Military Road No. 1 (today, National Route 58), cut through the former site. The temple's new location in Wakasa puts it a short distance from Naminoue Beach, immediately next to the Buddhist temple Gokoku-ji and Naminoue Shrine, facing Kume Ôdôri (Kume Avenue). Three large stone monuments can be found in the far corners of the grounds, and raised on slight elevations. One dedicated to Confucius stands to the right of the main worship hall, above the Meirindô, while two dedicated respectively to Tei Junsoku and to Ryukyuan royal advisor & regent Sai On stand to the left.
A bronze statue of Confucius was erected in 1975 as well, at the temple's former location, along with stone markers for the temple, and for the Meirindô school. In 2013, a second reconstruction of the original temple opened elsewhere in Kume, just behind the Fukushûen, adjacent to Matsuyama Park. This second temple features largely the same layout, with a very similar main gate, main hall, and Meirindô, albeit without the smaller shrines to the left, or the stone monuments. In a ceremony held on June 15, 2013, the mortuary tablets enshrined at the original temple were moved from the Wakasa (Naminoue) shrine to the new shrine at Matsuyama Park, with the intention that this represents their being returned to their original location for the first time since before the war.
The shrine hosts an annual ceremony called kushiumachi on September 28 each year, said to be Confucius' birthday. The ceremony honors Confucius and the Four Correlates (Yanzi, Zisi, Zhengzi, and Mencius), and was previously a national festival of the Ryûkyû Kingdom. It remains a prominent event today, attended on occasion by figures such as the Mayor of Naha.
The ceremony got its start after Sai Ken brought sculptures of Confucius & the Four Correlates back from Qufu in 1610. It was originally held at the private homes of members of the Kumemura community, but once the Shiseibyô was built, the ceremony came to be held there twice a year (in spring and autumn), beginning in 1676. The ceremony involves making offerings of pork, silk, chicken, fish, sugar cane, fruit, awamori, and the like, along with recitations from the Analects, and various other ritual activities. The Sanshikan began conducting the festival in 1719, and the kushiumachi became a national festival. Following the overthrow of the kingdom, it returned to being run by Kume locals; a group was established in 1914 to coordinate the ceremonies, which they continued into the 1940s. The observance of the kushiumachi was discontinued in the wake of World War II, but was resumed once the Shiseibyô was reestablished in 1975. Though performed for a time in Western-style formal wear, from 2009, those conducting the rituals have dressed in traditional Ryukyuan court costume.
- Explanatory plaques on-site at Shiseibyô.
- Pamphlets available on-site.
- "Kôshi-byô." Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia 沖縄コンパクト事典. Ryûkyû Shimpô. 1 March 2003.
- "Mortuary tablet of Confucius returns to Kume after 69 years," Ryukyu Shimpo, 16 June 2013.
- Plaques on-site in Kume district, Naha.