Translating the Chūzan Seikan — Part 1

The Ryūkyū Koku Chūzan Seikan (琉球國中山世鑑 ‘A Record of the Ages of Chūzan, the Ryūkyū Kingdom’) was compiled in 1650 CE by Haneji Chōshū (羽地朝秀). It is written in Early Modern Japanese and Classical Chinese and details the Ryūkyū Kingdom. This translation is based on the Tajima manuscript, which has been digitized by the University of the Ryūkyūs Library. As per the name, this manuscript was copied by by Tajima Risaburō. Based on his other manuscripts, it was likely copied some time in the 1890s CE, but the exact date is unknown. Like most of Tajima’s manuscripts, it has extensive annotations, in three different colors of ink, though all are presumably by Tajima himself. They include exegesis on various aspects of the text, as well as quotations from the Omoro Sōshi and other works.

The first 15 pages consist of an introduction to the work and a genealogy of the Kings of Ryūkyū, written in Classical Chinese. I have chosen to start, rather than from the very beginning, at the initial portion written in Japanese. Additionally, there are no page numbers, so I start counting from the initial page of the manuscript, not including the cover. Thus, I start on the verso, or b, side of page 15, and for continuity’s sake, I stop shortly before the end of the page.

I first reproduce, with some modernizations due to font limitations, the original text. I then add my interlinear glossed interpretation of the text. This is, of course, a work in progress and there are bound to be errors. Next, I include a free translation. Finally, I include any commentary I feel is necessary.

Original text

(Page 15b)


(1) 曩昔天城ニ阿摩美久ト云神御坐シケリ天帝是ヲ召シ
(2) 宣ケルハ此下ニ神ノ可住多處有リ去レトモ未タ島ト
(3) 不成事コソクヤシケレ爾降リテ島ヲ可作トソ下知シ
(4) 給ケル阿摩美久畏リ降リテ見ルニ多地トハ見ニケレ
(5) トモ東海ノ浪ハ西海ニ打越シ西海ノ浪ハ東海ニ打越
(6) シテ未タ島トソ不成ケル去程ニ阿摩美久天ヘ上リ土
(7) 石草木ヲ給ハヲハ1嶋ヲ作リテ奉ントソ奏シケル天帝
(8) 睿慮感有テ土石草木ヲ給リテケレハ阿摩美久土石草木
(9) ヲ持下リ嶋ノ数ヲハ作リテケリ.

Transcription and Interlinear Gloss

(Page 15b)

Ryūkyū Kingdom Chūzan Historical.Record Scroll One

Ryūkyū Creation=GEN matter

once heaven castle=LOC Amamikyu say.DV say-ADN deity reside.HON-RETR-FIN Heavenly.Emperor her=ACC summon.HON-INF

(2) NOTAMAF-Iker-e-ba KOKO SITA=ni KAMI=no SUM-UBE-KI OFO-KI TOKORO Ar-i-sar-e-domo IMAda SIMA to
say.HON-RETR-EV-CONJ here below=LOC deity-GEN reside-DEB-ADN many-ADN place exist-INF-completely-EV-CONC yet island be.DV

(3) NAR-AZ-U KOTO=koso kuyashi-kere NANJI KUDAr-ite SIMA=wo TUKUR-UBE-SI to zo SITA SIRAs-i-
become-NEG-ADN matter EFP regretful-EV you descend-CC island=ACC make-DEB-FIN be.DV EFP below rule-INF-

(4) -TAMAF-Iker-u AMAMIKYU KASIKOMAr-i FUr-ite MI-ru=ni OFO-KI TOKORO to fa  MI-n-iker-e-
-HON-RETR-ADN Amamikyu obey-INF descend-CC look-ADN=LOC many-ADN place be.DV TOP see-PFV-RETR-EV-

(5) -domo TOUKAI=no NAMI fa SEIKAI=ni UT-I KOs-i SEIKAI=no NAMI fa TOUKAI=ni UT-I KO[s-ite]
-CONC Eastern.Sea4=GEN wave TOP Western.Sea=LOC hit-INF go.over-INF Western.Sea=GEN wave TOP Eastern.Sea=LOC hit-INF go.over-CC

yet island be.DV EFP become-NEG-RETR-ADN thus-exist-ADN degree=LOC Amamikyu heaven=ALL rise-INF earth

(7) ISI KUSA KI=wo TAMAfar-e-ba SIMA=wo TUKUr-ite TATEMATUR-Am-u to zo MAWOs-iker-u TENTEI
stone grass tree=ACC present-EV-CONJ island=ACC make-CC offer.HUM-TENT-FIN say.DV FPT say.HUM-RETR-ADN Heavenly.Emperor

Emperor’s.pleasure feeling exist-CC earth stone grass tree=ACC bestow-INF-exist-PFV-RETR-EV-CONJ Amamikyu earth stone grass tree

(9) =wo MOT-I KUDAr-i SIMA=no KAZU=woba TUKUr-ite-ker-i…
=ACC hold-INF bestow-INF island=GEN number=ACC.TOP make-PFV=RETR-FIN

Free Translation

A Record of the Ages of Chūzan, the Ryūkyū Kingdom, Volume 1

On the Creation of the Ryūkyūs

Once, a goddess who was called Amamikyu lived in a Heavenly Castle. The Heavenly Emperor summoned her, and when he said, “Although there were many places below here where spirits resided, the fact that there were not yet islands was regrettable. You should go down to make islands.” ruling over the [lands] below. Amamikyu descended obediently and when she looked, although she saw that there were many lands, and waves washed from the Eastern Sea into the Western Sea, and washed from the Western Sea into the Eastern Sea, and yet, there were not islands. And then, Amamikyu said, “I will make and offer islands and present trees and grass and stone and earth to the the Heavens [for you].” The Heavenly Emperor was pleased and when he bestowed Amamikyu [with] trees and grass and stone and earth, Amamikyu made a number of islands and bestowed them with trees and grass and stone and earth.


(1) The Shimabukuro-bon (URI: is much clearer, with 給ハレハ tamafareba, which makes a lot more sense. Thanks to Matt Treyvaud for pointing this out to me.

(2) I had originally assumed that 曩昔 mukasi was something more complex. Matt Treyvaud pointed out an entry in 「日本国語大辞典」, which I don’t have access to at the moment, which has it simply as mukasi.

(3) It is generally assumed that Amamikyu—spelled <あまみきよ> in Old Okinawan, and pronounced as [amamit͡ɕuː] in Modern Okinawan—is partially cognate with Amami, as in the Amami Islands.

(4) In modern Okinawan, the Eastern Sea is [ʔagaɾinuʔumi], and the Western Sea is [niɕinuʔumi]. These correspond to the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea, respectively.

Update 10 Jan. 2014

Fixed a few errors. Thanks to Matt Treyvaud for catching them. If anyone else has any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me. As always, any mistakes remain my own.

Update 27 February 2016

Commentor David pointed out an important typo: the document was compiled in 1650, not 1605. This was a typo on my part, and is now corrected in the original text.


Haneji, Chōshū. 1605. Ryūkyū Koku Chūzan Seikan [A Record of the Ages of Chūzan, the Ryūkyū Kingdom]. Copied by Tajima Risaburō, University of the Ryūkyūs Library manuscript.


ACC – accusative case
ADN – adnominal form
ALL – allative case (‘toward’)
CC – clause-chaining converb (‘and’)
CONC – concessive converb (‘although’)
CONJ – conjunctive converb (‘because’, ‘when’)
DEB – debitive mood
DV – defective verb
EFP – emphatic focus particle
EV – evidential mood
FIN – final form
GEN – genitive case
HON – honorific
INF – infinitive
LOC – locative case
NEG – negative
RETR – retrospective aspect
TENT – tentative mood
TOP – topic

3 thoughts on “Translating the Chūzan Seikan — Part 1

  1. I greatly admire your translation. Just a small point: the information that I see shows that the Ryūkyū Koku Chūzan Seikan was completed in 1650, not 1605, which is important, because the Satsuma invasion of the Ryukyu islands occurred in 1609, and the Ryūkyū Koku Chūzan Seikan was commissioned in a period in which the Edo and Satsuma political entities were working to exert greater administrative influence over the Ryukyuan islands. This point of course doesn’t at all detract from your fine translation work.

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