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The key theme of this week’s readings is the relationship between the governments of Ryukyu, Japan, and China. It is noted that Ryukyu had diplomatic ties with Japan, but they concealed these ties from China (Watanabe 92). Thus, Ryukyu did not refuse to acknowledge the Chinese rule, but they did not let the Qing Dynasty know about their communication with Japan. Meanwhile, the relationship between the King of Chŏson and Ryukyuan and Japanese governments was based on the Sinocentric tribute system (Robinson 109). Thus, the readings analyze the maritime diplomacy between China, Korea, Japan, and Ryukyu.
Chŏson served as a basis for encouraging the relationships between Ryukyu and Japan. The diplomacy that was created to serve that purpose was called kirin and was defined as friendly connections of the rulers of status parity (Robinson 110). The acceptance of korin diplomacy on the part of Koreans was manifested through recognizing status parity, dismissing embassies by the diplomatic ritual calendar, amiable meetings, and an equal attitude to the rulers of each country. Three reception grades were used to help differentiate between several diplomatic statuses (Robinson 110). The synthesis that appeared due to such differentiation was represented in various aspects of maritime relationships.
Meanwhile, due to frequent shipwrecks, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese castaways were sometimes kept in Ryukyu. Such an obligation originated in the Qing Dynasty and required that any castaways found in Ryukyuan waters should be offered help and delivered home (Watanabe 98). Thus, if any of the Chinese people appeared in Ryukyu, the connection with Japan had to be thoroughly concealed. An example of such a policy’s enactment was recorded in 1741 when the Japanese ship heading for Ryukyu did not tell the Chinese authorities that it was going to Ryukyu (Watanabe 97). That case was one of many manifestations of concealment diplomacy.
Another interesting theme raised in the readings is the description of the Korean reception system. Because Ryukyuans, Koreans, and Japanese lived near the waters where piracy was spread, they needed to cooperate with one another to protect themselves (Robinson 110). Koreans sought help from the Japanese since the latter was capable of slowing pirates’ attacks. Maritime contacts had a reception system different from other elites. For instance, in 1449, there were four reception grades, and in 1471, the grades were further divided into several diplomatic statuses (Robinson 111). Therefore, the readings illustrate the complicated system of relationships between Korea, Japan, China, and Ryukyu.
In your opinion, what effect did the concealment policy have on modern diplomatic relations?
The answer to this question could promote understanding of some present-day regulations existing between Korea, Japan, and China. It would be interesting to find out whether there are any indications of the concealment policy’s effect on the modern political regime. Also, it is important to know whether relationships have improved or worsened because of the policy.
Robinson, Kenneth R. “Centering the King of Chosŏn: Aspects of Korean Maritime Diplomacy, 1392-1592.” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 59, no. 1, 2000, pp. 109-125.
Watanabe, Miki. The Elements of Concealment in Ryukyuan Diplomacy Between Japan and China in Early Modern Times. N.d. Web.