Sho Taikyu

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Tomb of Shô Taikyû in Nanjô City, Okinawa

Shô Taikyû was a king of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, the sixth of the line of the first Shô Dynasty. His reign saw the construction of many Buddhist temples, and the casting of the "Bridge of Nations" Bell (万国津梁の鐘, Bankoku shinryô no kane).

Life and reign

Shô Taikyû was the seventh son of Shô Hashi, founder of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû and of the Shô Dynasty. In 1453, he was named Prince of Goeku, and given Goeku magiri (today part of Okinawa City) as his domain[2].

When King Shô Kinpuku died in 1453, a succession dispute erupted between the king's son Shiro (志魯) and his younger brother Furi (布里). Shuri Castle was burned down in the conflict, which ended in the death of both Shiro and Furi, and the succession of Shô Taikyû to the throne[2].

Having studied under Kaiin, a Zen monk from Kyoto[3], Shô Taikyû had a number of Buddhist temples founded, including the Kôgen-ji, Fumon-ji, Manju-ji, and Tenryû-ji[4][5], and had at least ten notable bronze bells cast, including the so-called "Bridge of Nations" Bell.[3] The bell, with an inscription describing the kingdom's prosperity in maritime trade and diplomacy, hung in Shuri Castle for centuries and became a famous symbol of the castle and of the kingdom.

Shô Taikyû's reign was, indeed, a period of prosperity in maritime trade. Historian George H. Kerr writes that Okinawan merchants sometimes earned as much as a thousand-percent return on luxury goods, that Naha grew more fully into a prosperous-looking port town, and the estates of the local lords (anji) grew as well. However, Kerr also writes that Shô Taikyû's patronage of Buddhism and temple-building efforts far exceeded that which would have been demanded or supported by the populace, and that these activities impoverished the royal treasury[6].

The reign of Shô Taikyû also saw one of the more famous episodes of political intrigues among the anji in the history & legends of the kingdom. Informed by Amawari, lord of Katsuren gusuku and son-in-law of the king, that Gosamaru, lord of Nakagusuku gusuku and father-in-law to Shô Taikyû, was plotting to overthrow the kingdom, Shô Taikyû allowed Amawari to lead a royal contingent to subjugate Nakagusuku. Following Gosamaru's defeat and subsequent death, the king discovered that it was in fact Amawari who had been plotting against him from the beginning, and whose schemes led to the destruction of a loyal retainer. Katsuren was then subsequently attacked, and Amawari captured and executed[7][8].

Upon his death in 1461, Shô Taikyû was succeeded by his son, Shô Toku.

Preceded by:
Shô Kinpuku
Reign as King of Chûzan and Ryûkyû
Succeeded by:
Shô Toku


  • Mark McNally, "A King's Legitimacy and a Kingdom's Exceptionality: Ryûkyû's Bankoku Shinryô no Kane of 1458," International Journal of Okinawan Studies 6 (2015), 87-103.
  1. While the Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History gives his birth year as 1415, the Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia gives it as 1410.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Shō Taikyū." 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 27 July 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Shō Taikyū." Okinawa rekishi jinmei jiten (沖縄歴史人名事典, "Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History"). Naha: Okinawa Bunka-sha, 1996. p42.
  4. Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. (revised edition). Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p99.
  5. Shinzato, Keiji, et al. Okinawa-ken no rekishi ("History of Okinawa Prefecture"). Tokyo: Yamakawa Publishing, 1996. p53.
  6. Kerr. pp99-100.
  7. Okinawa G8 Summit Host Preparation Council. "Three Castles, Two Lords and a Ryukyuan Opera." The Okinawa Summit 2000 Archives. Accessed 25 July 2009.
  8. "Gosamaru-Amawari no hen." 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 25 July 2009.
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