List of monarchs of Ryukyu Islands

The list of monarchs of the Ryukyu Islands extends from chief[1] Shunten in the 12th century to the last king in the 19th century.

King of Ryukyu
Hidari gomon
Crown of the King of Ryukyu
StyleYour Majesty (首里天加那志)
First monarchShunten
Last monarchShō Tai
AbolitionMarch 17, 1879
ResidenceShuri Castle
Pretender(s)Mamoru Shō

Tenson Dynasty

According to the "Mirror of Chūzan" (中山世鑑 Chūzan Seikan), the founder of the Tenson Dynasty (天孫王朝 Tenson Ōchō) was a descendant of Amamikyu (阿摩美久, the goddess of creation in the Ryukyuan religion). Though the "Mirror of Chūzan" said that the Tenson Dynasty had 25 early rulers, their names are still unknown.

Shunten Dynasty

In 1186, the 25th ruler's throne was usurped by Riyū (利勇). Shunten overthrew Riyū the next year, becoming chief of the Ryukyu Islands. He established the Shunten Dynasty.

Name Hanzi/Kanji Mikoto Reign Age at death
Shunten 舜天 Mikotoatsushi
1187–1237 71
Shunbajunki 舜馬順熙/舜馬順熈 Kiekimi
1238–1248 63
Gihon 義本 None 1249–1259 ?

Eiso Dynasty

In 1259, Gihon, who was the last chief of Shunten Dynasty, abdicated his throne. His Sessei Eiso succeeded him.

Name Hanzi Mikoto Reign Age at death
Eiso 英祖 Ezo no tedako
1260–1299 70
Taisei 大成 Unknown 1300–1308 9 or 61
Eiji 英慈 Unknown 1309–1313 45
Tamagusuku 玉城 Unknown 1314–1336 40
Seii 西威 Unknown 1337–1354 21

Sanzan period

The Sanzan period is a period of history of the Okinawa Islands that lasted from 1314 until 1429. During these years, the island of Okinawa was politically divided into three principalities or polities:

  • Satto Line

(Chūzan, 1355–1406)

Chūzan had paid tribute to Ming court in 1372 and 1404.

Name Hanzi Mikoto Reign Age at death
Satto 察度 Ufu mamono
1355–1397 74
Bunei 武寧 Naga no mamono
1398–1406 50
  • Ōsato Line

(Nanzan, 1337–1429)

Nanzan had paid tribute to Ming court in 1383 and 1388.

Name Hanzi/Kanji Mikoto Reign Age at death
Ufusatu 承察度 None 1337–1396 ?
Oueishi 汪英紫 None 1388–1402 ?
Ououso 汪應祖/汪応祖 None 1403–1413 ?
Tafuchi 達勃期 None 1413–1414 ?
Taromai 他魯每 None 1415–1429 ?
  • Haniji Line

(Hokuzan, 1322–1416)

Hokuzan had paid tribute to Ming court in 1383.

Name Hanzi Mikoto Reign Age at death
Haniji 怕尼芝 None 1322–1395 ?
Min None 1396–1400 ?
Hananchi 攀安知 None 1401–1416 ?

First Shō Dynasty

(Chūzan Kingdom, 1407–1429; Ryukyu Kingdom, 1429–1469)

In 1406, Bunei was overthrown and Shō Shishō became the nominal ruler of Chūzan Kingdom, placed there by his eldest son Shō Hashi as part of a power bid to control Chūzan while giving an appearance to China of proper Confucian respect for one's elders. Hashi then set out to conquer the island, conquering the other aji (tribal lords) of Chuzan and then, in 1416, the northern principality, Hokuzan. In 1421, after the death of his father, Shō Hashi became the ruler of Chuzan and claimed to China that he had unified the island of Okinawa and asked to be recognized as the king (although he had not, in fact, yet conquered the entire island; Nanzan, the southernmost kingdom, remained independent until 1429). Thus, in 1422, the Yongle Emperor recognized Hashi as king, gave Hashi the surname Shō (尚) as the designator for his dynasty, and gave a new name to the country: Ryukyu Kingdom.[2]

Name Hanzi/Kanji Mikoto Reign Age at death
Shō Shishō 尚思紹 Kimishi mamono
1407–1421 67
Shō Hashi 尚巴志 Sejitaka mamono
1422–1439 67
Shō Chū 尚忠 Unknown 1440–1442 54
Shō Shitatsu 尚思達 Kimiteda
1443–1449 41
Shō Kinpuku 尚金福 Kimishi
1450–1453 55
Shō Taikyū 尚泰久 Nanojiyomoi
also called
1454–1460 45
Shō Toku 尚德/尚徳 Hachiman aji
also called
1461–1469 29

Second Shō Dynasty

(Ryukyu Kingdom (琉球國), 1470–1872; Ryukyu Domain (琉球藩) of Japan, 1872–1879)

In 1469, Shō Toku, the last king of the First Shō Dynasty, was killed in a coup d'état with no son to succeed. So courtiers elected Shō En as king, and established the Second Shō Dynasty. During the reign of his son, Shō Shin, the Ryukyu Kingdom was rich, powerful and prosperous, conquering the Sakishima Islands and centralizing the royal government. It was called "the Great Days of Chūzan", a "golden period" in Ryukyuan history. But the military strength of the Ryukyu Kingdom soon declined after his death, although later kings made gains against the Satsuma Domain of Japan in conquering the Amami Islands.

In 1609, Satsuma Domain invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom, capturing the Amami Islands and landing on Okinawa Island. After taking Nakijin Castle, Urasoe Castle, and Shuri Castle, King Shō Nei was taken as a prisoner to Kagoshima and later to Edo (modern day Tokyo). The king was forced to sign an oath of vassalage to the head of Satsuma Domain. From then on, Ryukyu was a vassal state of Satsuma; the king had to pay tribute to both China and Satsuma. The Ryukyu Kingdom became a Han of Japan in 1872. In 1879, Japan replaced Ryūkyū Domain with Okinawa Prefecture, formally annexing the islands. King Shō Tai was dethroned and given the title of marquis and removed to Tokyo.

Name Hanzi/Kanji Mikoto Reign Age at death
Shō En 尚圓/尚円 Kanamaru aji suetsugi no ōnishi
"Kanamaru ajisohi"
1470–1476 61
Shō Sen'i 尚宣威 Iri no yononushi
1477 48
Shō Shin 尚真 Okiyakamowe
1477–1526 61
Shō Sei 尚清 Tenzoku no ajisohi
1527–1555 59
Shō Gen 尚元 Tedaji ajisohi
1556–1572 44
Shō Ei 尚永 Ezoniyasohi ajisohi
also called
1573–1586 30
Shō Nei 尚寧 Megama ajisohi
1587–1620 56
Shō Hō 尚豐/尚豊 Tenkiyama ajisohi
1621–1640 50
Shō Ken 尚賢 1641–1647 23
Shō Shitsu 尚質 1648–1668 39
Shō Tei 尚貞 1669–1709 64
Shō Eki 尚益 1710–1712 34
Shō Kei 尚敬 1713–1751 52
Shō Boku 尚穆 1752–1795 55
Shō On 尚溫/尚温 1796–1802 18
Shō Sei 尚成 1803 3
Shō Kō 尚灝 1804–1828 47
Shō Iku 尚育 1829–1847 34
Shō Tai 尚泰 1848–1879 58

See also


  1. ^ George H. Kerr. (2000). Okinawa: The History of an Island People, p. 52 , p. 52, at Google Books; although the paramount leaders of Okinawa beginning with Shunten (c. 1166 – c. 1237) are commonly identified as "kings," Kerr observes that "it is misleading to attribute full-fledged 'kingship' to an Okinawan chief in these early centuries... distinctly individual leadership exercised through force of personality or preeminent skill in arms or political shrewdness was only slowly replaced by formal institutions of government — laws and ceremonies — supported and strengthened by a developing respect for the royal office."
  2. ^ Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Tokyo: Tuttle, 2000. p. 89.


External links

Bunei (Ryukyu)

Bunei (武寧) (r. 1398–1406), also known as Wuning, was the last chief of Chūzan, one of three polities on the island of Okinawa, before it was united into the Ryukyu Kingdom by Shō Hashi.

Eiji (Ryukyu)

Eiji (英慈, 1268–1314) was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands.Born as the second son of King Taisei, his mother’s name was unknown.

He was the third ruler in the Eisō lineage of monarchs; that is, his grandfather was King Eiso and his father was King Taisei. The five years of Eiji's reign at Shuri were uneventful, but after his death, the island was split into three polities.

Eiji was the father of Tamagusuku, who would become the first monarch of the polity of Chūzan in central Okinawa.

Eiso (Ryukyu)

Eiso (英祖, Chinese pronunciation "Yingzu") (1229–1299), was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands.

First Shō Dynasty

The First Shō Dynasty (第一尚氏王朝) was a royal house that ruled Chūzan, and later the Ryukyu Kingdom, reigning from 1406 until King Shō Toku's death in 1469.

In 1406, Bunei was overthrown and Shō Shishō became the nominal ruler of Chūzan, placed there by his eldest son Shō Hashi as part of a power bid to control Chūzan while giving an appearance to China of proper Confucian respect for one's elders. Shō Hashi conquered Hokuzan in 1416 and Nanzan in 1429, unified Okinawa successfully. He was given the surname Shō (尚) by the Chinese Emperor, and changed the country name to the Ryukyu Kingdom.King Shō Toku died in 1469, and his offspring were killed in a coup d'état, following which the dynasty was succeeded by the Second Shō Dynasty.

Genealogy of the Shō Dynasties

The First Shō Dynasty and Second Shō Dynasty ruled the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1406–1469 and 1470–1879, respectively. In spite of the names, they were unrelated. Abbreviated genealogies of the two dynasties follow here.

Gihon (Ryukyu)

Gihon (義本) (c. 1204 - c. 1260), also known as Yoshimoto or as Yiben in Chinese, was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands.Gihon was the third and last of the Shunten Lineage. He succeeded his father Shunbajunki at the age of 44, in 1248.

Gihon's reign was marked by terrible disasters, including famine, epidemics, and devastating typhoons. Around 1254, he appointed a young lord by the name of Eiso to be Regent (Sessei), and to aid in managing these disasters. When Gihon abdicated in 1259 or 1260, he "withdrew into the forest alone." Eiso succeeded him as "king" and began a new royal lineage. The precise location, date, and circumstances of Gihon's death are unknown, though it is safe to assume he died shortly after his abdication. Local legends allege that he was last seen at the cliffs of Hedo Point, the northernmost point on Okinawa Island.


Hokuzan (北山) was one of three kingdoms which controlled Okinawa in the 14th century. Okinawa, previously controlled by a number of local chieftains or lords, loosely bound by a paramount chieftain or king of the entire island, split into these three more solidly defined kingdoms within a few years after 1314; the Sanzan period thus began, and would end roughly one hundred years later, when Chūzan's King Shō Hashi conquered Hokuzan in 1416 and Nanzan in 1429.


Ogiyaka (宇喜也嘉), also known as Ukiyaka or Yosoidon (1445-1505), was Sovereign Queen of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1469 until her death. She married Shō En before he became king, and acted as regent during the early years of Shō Shin's reign.

Second Shō Dynasty

The Second Shō Dynasty (第二尚氏王朝) was a royal house which ruled the Ryukyu Kingdom after the First Shō Dynasty, reigning from 1470 until the abdication of King Shō Tai in 1879.

The ancestors of the Second Shō Dynasty came from Izena Island, a small island which lies off the northwestern coast of Okinawa Island. Shō En traveled to Shuri in 1441, and became a retainer of Prince Shō Taikyū. He was appointed as the treasurer after Shō Taikyū became the king. Shō En ascended to the throne after a coup d'état in 1469, and he claimed to be the crown prince of Shō Taikyū, which resulted in his reign being accepted by the Ming Dynasty in 1471.


Seii (西威) (c. 1326 – 1349) was the second king of the Okinawan kingdom of Chūzan. He succeeded his father, Tamagusuku, in 1336, at the age of ten. His reign is characterized by the meddling of his mother in government affairs, and her corruption. The king's mother took advantage of her privileges and position, and severely damaged popular support for her son.

Seii died in 1349. The Governor of Urasoe, Satto, seized power for himself.


Shunbajunki (舜馬順熙, r. 1237–1248) was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands. Shunbajunki was the second of the Shunten line. He succeeded his father Shunten in 1237.Shunbajunki's reign is noted for the construction of Shuri Castle, and the introduction of the Japanese kana writing system. The Chinese language and writing system was not to be introduced until roughly a century later; even after that time, government documents continued to be written in kana, as did much poetry.

Shunbajunki died in 1248, and was succeeded by his son Gihon.

Shō En

Shō En (尚圓)(1415–1476, r. 1470–1476) was a king of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the founder of the Second Shō Dynasty. Prior to becoming king, he was known as Kanamaru Uchima (内間金丸).

Shō Gen

Shō Gen (尚元, 1528–1572) was king of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1556 to 1572. He was called "Gen, the mute." The king required considerable support from the Sanshikan (Council of Three), the chief council of royal advisors. His reign marked the beginning of the Council's demonstration of significantly greater effectiveness and efficiency than previously.

Shō Gen received his official investiture from the Ming Court in 1562, and received emissaries from the Shimazu clan of the Japanese province of Satsuma in 1570 and 1572. The Shimazu wished to establish some control over the Ryukyus, making them either a tributary or a vassal state. The kingdom resisted the Shimazu overtures, and a small punitive mission launched by the Shimazu created a small skirmish on the island of Amami Ōshima in 1571, although the Ryukyuans defeated them.

He was the second son of King Shō Sei, who he succeeded, and was succeeded in turn by his second son, Shō Ei.

Shō Nei

Shō Nei (尚寧, 1564–1620) was king of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1587–1620. He reigned during the 1609 invasion of Ryukyu and was the first king of Ryukyu to be a vassal to the Shimazu clan of Satsuma, a Japanese feudal domain.

Shō Nei was the great-grandson of Shō Shin (尚真, r. 1477–1526) and the adopted son-in-law of Shō Ei (尚永, r. 1573–1586).

Shō Sei

For the 19th-century king of Ryūkyū, see Shō Sei (r. 1803).Shō Sei (尚清, 1497–1555) was king of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1526 to 1555. He was the fifth son of King Shō Shin, who he succeeded.

Shō Sei suppressed a rebellion on Amami Ōshima in 1537 and took steps to improve defenses against wakō that same year.

Shō Sei died in 1555 and was succeeded by his second son Shō Gen.

Shō Shishō

Shō Shishō (尚思紹, r. 1407–1421), also known as Talumei, was Anji of Sashiki and later chief of Chūzan, one of three polities on the island of Okinawa, before they were united. He was the progenitor of what became the First Shō Dynasty.

The son of Shishō was Shō Hashi, who is known as the first king of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Shō Hashi overthrew chief Bunei of Chūzan in 1406 and installed his father as king. His kingship was acknowledged by the Yongle Emperor of China, who caused a diplomatic mission to be sent to the Ryukyuan capital in 1415.On 30 January 1406, the Yongle Emperor expressed horror when the Ryukyuans castrated some of their own children to become eunuchs to serve in the Ming imperial palace. The emperor said that the boys who were castrated were innocent and did not deserve castration, and he returned the boys to Ryukyu and instructed them not to send eunuchs again.

Shō Taikyū

Shō Taikyū (尚 泰久, c. 1415–1460, r. 1454–1460) was a king of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the sixth of the line of the first Shō 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 shinryō no kane).

Taisei (Ryukyu)

Taisei (大成, 1247-1309) was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands.He was the second ruler in the Eisō lineage of monarchs; that is, his father was King Eisō and his son was King Eiji. The years of Taisei's reign at Shuri were uneventful.

Taisei was the grandfather of Tamagusuku, who would become the first monarch of the kingdom of Chūzan in central Okinawa.


Tamagusuku (玉城, c. 1296-c. 1336) was a chief of the Ryūkyū Islands.Tamgusuku was a chief of the Okinawan polity of Chūzan from roughly 1314-1336.

He was the third son of Eiji (r. 1309-1313), he was the fourth ruler of the lineage of Eiso (r. 1260-1299).

Succeeding his father Eiji as paramount chief of Okinawa's territorial lords at the age of nineteen, Tamagusuku lacked the charisma and leadership skills to command respect and loyalty from those lords (the anji). A number of these lords rebelled, and the island of Okinawa came to be divided into three kingdoms. Tamagusuku, remaining in Urasoe, became the chief of Chūzan. His failure to institute reforms or innovations in governance is generally claimed as one of the causes of the fall of the lineage (dynasty), which ended with Tamagusuku's son and successor Seii.The Lord of Ōzato fled south from Tamagusuku's capital at Urasoe and, along with his followers, formed the polity of Nanzan (南山, Southern Mountain).The Lord of Nakijin, based some distance to the north, declared himself chief of Hokuzan (北山, Northern Mountain). He was succeed by his only son Seii.

Ryukyuan monarchs
Shunten Dynasty
Eiso Dynasty
Sanzan period
First Shō Dynasty
Second Shō Dynasty


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