Making Destiny in the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay examines the process whereby Confucianism gradually became the dominant outlook and ideology of the Ryukyuan royal court and many Ryukyuan elites. This process began in the middle of the seventeenth century and was largely complete by the middle of the eighteenth century. Ryukyu was a small island kingdom that conducted trade and diplomacy with Japan and China. Political and economic circumstances influenced the characteristics of Ryukyuan Confucianism, which was a subset of the broader realm of Chinese studies. Confucian thought was closely connected with poetry, geomancy, calendar making, diplomatic protocol, and other realms of knowledge that facilitated close relations with Ryukyu’s larger neighbors. The most prominent Confucian scholar in the kingdom was Sai On. I argue that Sai On’s interpretation of ming (destiny) was the key intellectual component in a broader agenda of social engineering intended to put Ryukyu on a moral par with China and Japan. In developing this argument, I examine Sai On’s interpretation of ming, his campaign against what he regarded as superstitions, and his ideas on government and the economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDao Companions to Chinese Philosophy
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameDao Companions to Chinese Philosophy
ISSN (Print)2211-0275
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8780

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Philosophy


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