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Music (音楽) and the Performing Arts (芸能)

 

Ryukyuan Dances [琉球舞踊]

The dances of Ryukyu include 1) choreographed dance incorporated into theatrical productions (雑踊 Zou odori) developed after 1879, 2) traditional folk dances [民俗的舞踊] and 3) classical dance [古典舞踊] developed during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. These classical dances can be further divided into five categories: ‘dances for the elderly’ [老人踊 roujin odori], ‘dances for boys coming of age’ [若衆踊 wakashuu odori], ‘dances for women’ [女踊 onna odori], ‘dances for young men’ [二才踊 niisee odori] and ‘dance for two beautiful and two plain young women’ [打組踊 uchi kumi odori].

There are many folk dances, including the ‘Maki odori’ [巻踊] danced at harvest festivals [豊年祭] in Yaeyama, both the ‘Kuichaa’ [クイチヤー] danced at harvest festivals and the ‘Amagoi’ [雨乞] rain dance in Miyako, and in Okinawa eisaa [エイサー] dances are performed at Bon festival and Ushideeku [ウシデーク] as well as the Shinugu and Unjami [シヌグ・ウンジャミ] carried out in fishing and farming communities [農漁村].

Zou odori is dance performed in Okinawan theatre (沖縄芝居 Uchinaa Shibai ウチナーしばい) and combines folk dance and classical dance styles. Although the biggest influence by far on Zou odori is from Japanese performing arts dances from Southeast Asia and India are also believed to be important. The popularity of this style of theatre-dance is believed to be because it is more reflective of the lives of ordinary people.

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Kumi Odori [組踊]

Kumi odori is a performing art that combines music, dance and storytelling and is a popular form of entertainment found throughout Okinawa. Japanese Noh, Kabuki and Kyougen (comic drama) theatre [能・狂言・歌舞伎] are also influences on its development. Tamagusuku Choukun [玉城朝兼] is regarded as the founder of Kumi odori, first organizing a performance for a visiting Chinese investiture mission in 1719. The so-called ‘Itsuban,’ or Five Works of Tamagusuku [五番] include Nidoutekiuchi (二童敵討 The Children’s Revenge), Shuushinkaneiri (執心鍾入 Possessed by Love, She Takes Possession of the Temple Bell), Meikarushi (銘苅子 The Children Left Behind), Koukou no Maki (孝行の巻 A Tale of Filial Piety) and Onnamonogurui (女物狂 The Grief-Crazed Woman).

Other classic Kumi odori plays include Heshikiya Choubun’s [平敷屋朝敵] ‘Temizu no Midori [手水の縁],’ Tasato Chouchoku’s [田里朝直] ‘Manzaitekiuchi [万歳敵討]’ and Takamiyagusuku Peechin’s [高宮城親雲上] (1703-73) ‘Hanauri no Midori [花売の縁].’

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Music [音楽]

The sanshin [三線] was introduced to Ryukyu from China during the latter part of the 14th century and has had a huge impact on the performing arts of Ryukyu. The sanshin became the foundation of classical Ryukyuan music, with the appearance of Omoro singers [オモロ歌唱者] called ‘Akainko [赤大子]’ in the 16th century and, in the 17th century, the first sanshin master Tansui Ueekata [湛水親方] (also known as 幸地賢忠 Kouchi Genchuu [1623-83]). In the 18th century, Yakabi Chouki [屋嘉比朝寄] developed the ‘Kunkunshii [工工四]’ sanshin musical notation system based on Chinese musical notation. The modern system of ‘Kunkunshii’ sanshin musical notation was developed by Chinen Sekikou [知念績高] (1761-1828), and further developed by two of his students, Afuso Seigen [安富祖正元] and Nomura Anchou [野村安趙]. Their systems (ryuu) are known as the Afusoryuu [安富祖流] and Noburaryuu [野村流].

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

 


 

Crafts and Manufactures

Ceramics [陶芸]

Indigenous Ryukyuan ceramics developed in the 17th century during the reign of King Shou Hou when three Korean potters were invited to Okinawa from Satsuma in 1617. A key early local figure is Hirata Tentsuu [平田典通] (or Shukuranten [宿藍田] 1641-1722) who studied colored glazing [赤絵] and whiteprint [白焼] techniques in China and who, upon returning to Okinawa in 1671, began making beautiful high quality products. In terms of famous 18th century potters, Nakandakari Chigen’s [仲村渠致元] Tsubo vase workmanship [壷細工] is legendary. Tsuboya [壷屋] was established in 1682 when the kilns at Takaraguchi [宝口], Chibana [知花] and Wakuta [湧田] were relocated to the Makishi district of Naha.

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Lacquerware [漆器]  

It is thought that Ryukyuan lacquerware production began during the early part of the 15th century. Under the protection of the Royal Government indigenous techniques using mother-of-pearl and sunken gold were developed, and the ‘tsuikin’ technique was developed by Higa Shoushou in 1715.

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Textiles/Fibers [繊物]

It is thought that Bashofu [芭蕉布] (thread made from banana fiber) has been woven in Ryukyu since ancient times but that more advanced weaving techniques were developed during the 16th century. Towards the end of the 16th century Jofu woven ramie was made in Miyako and Yaeyama and on Kume Island during the 17th century sericulture techniques were developed using tsumugi.

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Medicines [医学] 

It is said that Takamine Tokumei [高嶺徳明](or Gishitetsu 1653-1738) learned anesthesia techniques and cleft-lip surgery while in China. Upon returning to Okinawa in 1689, he successfully performed cleft-lip surgery on (then prince) Shou Eki (who would become king in 1710). He also passed his knowledge of this kind of surgery to Satsuma physicians. It is also said that Nakachi Kijin (1789-1859) learned about bovine smallpox vaccination clandestinely from Bernard Jean Bettelheim (local people were obliged to keep their distance from him given that he was a Christian missionary at a time when Christianity was strictly prohibited by the Tokugawa bakufu) and was able to successfully perform inoculations.             

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)


 

Introduced and Adapted Technologies and Techniques

Medicines [医学] 

It is said that Takamine Tokumei [高嶺徳明](or Gishitetsu 1653-1738) learned anesthesia techniques and cleft-lip surgery while in China. Upon returning to Okinawa in 1689, he successfully performed cleft-lip surgery on (then prince) Shou Eki (who would become king in 1710). He also passed his knowledge of this kind of surgery to Satsuma physicians. It is also said that Nakachi Kijin (1789-1859) learned about bovine smallpox vaccination clandestinely from Bernard Jean Bettelheim (local people were obliged to keep their distance from him given that he was a Christian missionary at a time when Christianity was strictly prohibited by the Tokugawa bakufu) and was able to successfully perform inoculations.             

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)

Karate [空手] 

Karate is an ancient martial art of Ryukyu that uses the hand (teii [テイー]). It was created out of an adaption of Chinese kenpou. Karate does not utilize weapons, it is a martial art that utilizes just bare hands and feet. There is a category of martial arts in Okinawa known as ‘kobudou [古武術]’ that utilizes tools that would have been readily accessible to rural farmers such as nunchaku, sticks or sickles as weapons. The Japanese ‘kobudou’ system is somewhat different, incorporating a range of weapons that farmers would not have had easy access to. Karate was introduced to the Japanese mainland in the 20th century by Funakoshi Gichin and today is an international sport.

Reference: 新城俊昭著 (Arashiro Toshiaki), 高等学校琉球・沖縄の歴史と文化 : 書き込み教科書 (糸満 : 編集工房東洋企画, 2010)


 


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