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Tenshikan

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The Tenshikan, as depicted in a 1788 handscroll painting by Japanese painter Yamaguchi Suiô
  • Established: 1396
  • Other Names: 館屋 (O: Kwanya)
  • Japanese: 天使館 (Tenshikan)

The Tenshikan (lit. "Hall of Heavenly Envoys") was an establishment maintained in Naha, the main port city of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, to serve as lodgings for Chinese investiture envoys who visited the kingdom to formally invest each Ryukyuan king in his throne.

The Tenshikan was first built in 1396; the first investiture mission arrived in 1404.[1] The envoys typically stayed for four to eight months.[2] Various matters related to the envoys' stay at the Tenshikan were overseen by a Ryukyuan official called the kanmushi (館務司).[3]

The complex was built largely in the style of a Chinese administrative compound, and was oriented to face south. It was surrounded by fencing, and had one main gate on the south side, flanked by two yellow Chinese-style banners on flagpoles. The compound was divided into three sections, with a cobblestone path leading straight through the center of the compound, from the main southern gate, through two further gates to the main halls. Two drum towers stood to either side, along with two administrative buildings. A plaque reading 「天澤門」 (C: Tiān zé mén, J: Tentakumon, "Heavenly Marsh Gate") hung above the second of the middle gates. Beyond this gate was a large plaza or garden where ceremonies could be performed, and behind that, the Main Hall. Two buildings near the rear of the compound served as the lodgings for the lead envoys of the investiture missions. Calligraphy plaques by investiture envoys and others were hung here as well. The Zhōngshān jì lüè (J: Chûzan kiryaku), written in 1663, relates that parts of the Tenshikan were in rather poor condition at that time, but that the compound contained numerous buildings, and that the furnishings, dishes, and so forth were in a Chinese style. Further, a number of wooden plaques were displayed in an upstairs area, all inscribed with calligraphy/poetry by notable Ming Dynasty figures.

One interpreter and twenty other officials were stationed at the Tenshikan to assist the envoys. Water from the natural springs at Shuri castle was couriered to the Tenshikan each morning for the envoys' use, along with rice, noodles, poultry, fish, pork and goat, and other foodstuffs. In addition to this, lavish banquets were held for the Chinese visitors seven times during their multi-month stay; for the last of these seven banquets, the king of Ryûkyû came to the Tenshikan and attended in person.

When Chinese envoys were not in residence, sections of the Tenshikan were used by the satôza (sugar guild) for storage of sugar, construction and storage of casks for transporting the sugar, and organization of the shipment of sugar to Satsuma han.

Following the abolition of the kingdom, and the establishment of Okinawa prefecture, the Tenshikan was converted into the Naha Ward Office (kuyakusho), and then the Naha City Office (shiyakusho). The neighboring Shimo Tenpi Shrine and offices of the Naha satonushi were replaced by the Naha Post Office. A new building was constructed on the site in 1917, to serve as government offices, but this was destroyed in the 1944/10/10 air raids along with much of the rest of the city. The site is today occupied by the headquarters of the Naha Medical Association.

References

  • Plaques on-site.[1]
  • Fukai Jinzô 深井甚三, Edo no yado 江戸の宿, Tokyo: Heibonsha (2000), 71-74.
  1. Ryûkyû shisetsu, Edo he iku! 琉球使節、江戸へ行く!, Okinawa Prefectural Museum (2009), 47.
  2. "Sappôshi." Okinawa konpakuto jiten (沖縄コンパクト事典, "Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia"). 1 March 2003. Accessed 7 November 2009.
  3. Gallery labels, "Kuninda - Ryûkyû to Chûgoku no kakehashi," special exhibit, Okinawa Prefectural Museum, Sept 2014.

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