The Legacy of the Ryukyu Kingdom

By Okinawa Prefecture

Much of the tangible and intangible heritage from the Ryukyu Kingdom era has been lost through modernization and war, but you can still explore the culture through these reproductions of historic artifacts.

Nuumeusurii,set of royal vessels for state banquets,religious rituals,and ceremonies (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

The Ryukyu Kingdom Cultural Heritage Collection and Restoration Project

The Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum  implemented the Ryukyu Kingdom Cultural Heritage Collection and Restoration Project. This project seeks to bring together academic knowledge, scientific analysis, and other information gained from what is left of the cultural heritage and use the highest level of modern craftsmanship to reproduce the eight forms of artisanry from the Kingdom era: painting, wood carvings, stone carvings, lacquerware, dyeing and weaving, pottery, metalcraft, and sanshin. The project objective is to pay homage to the vigor of Okinawan artisanry through these works and promote Okinawa as a cultural tourism destination by underscoring the culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Nuumeusurii,set of royal vessels for state banquets,religious rituals,and ceremonies. Golden cup and Silver rinsing bowl. (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Reproduction

A reproduction is a faithful reconstruction of the original based on detailed study and research. To the extent possible, it is made of the same material using the same techniques as the original object.

Nuumeusurii,set of royal vessels for state banquets,religious rituals,and ceremonies. Pair of silver bowls with stands. (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Stone lions at Tama-udun royal mausoleum (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Stone lions at Tama-udun royal mausoleum

These stone lions created in the 16th Century guard the Tamaudun, the tomb of the second Sho dynasty. The two lions stand in upright position; one holds a child and the other is playing with a ball. They were damaged during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. The reproductions restore the peculiar but humorous expressions of the stone lions.

Cintamani clove furnace (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Cintamani clove furnace

Clove furnace is a utensil for enjoying the scent of cloves. This work imitates the shape of the mystical Cintamani stone. The well-formed shape of the furnace and the landscape artwork expressed by the colored Gosu (pigment) are presented skillfully. The original item is missing both the lid knob and the hollow bottom. However, reproduction is performed based on the results of research. It was selected for restoration because it was a work that showed the incredible skills of the craftsmen of the kingdom era.

Confucius and his four disciples (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Sanshin "Morishima-kejo"with trunk (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Sanshin "Morishima-kejo" with trunk

Sanshin is the main instrument for Ryukyu classical music and kumi-odori, and is a handicraft painted with black lacquer. The material of the rod is Ryukyu kokutan, ebony. The solid rod is processed straight or curved. In addition, technology to apply complicated work inside the trunk for good sound requires advanced work.
Today, the Sanshin type is roughly classified into seven types. Haebaru, Chinen, Kuba, Makabe, Hiranaka, Yonagusuku has a type name associated with a master craftsman.
The Kejo (opening bell) refers to a famous makabe-shaped famous instrument. The word Kejo refers to a loud, pleasant, and clear sound; like that of a bell.

Crown cap of the prince with weft float weave on a red ground, silk (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Crown cap of the prince with weft float weave on a red ground, silk

Crown caps called kanmuri or hachimachi worn by men during the Ryukyu Kingdom era indicated rank by the color and type of weave. Crown caps decorated with gold thread were worn exclusively by kings and princes.

Bingata Costume with Flowing Water, Iris, Butterflies and Swallow Patterns on White Background, Ramie (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Bingata Costume with Flowing Water, Iris, Butterflies and Swallow Patterns on White Background, Ramie

The original summer costume, called nchanashi, was worn by members of the Ryukyuan royal family. It is a typical bingata (resist-dyed textile) with Japanese-style design. The fabric was dyed from both sides by applying the same pigments used in the Ryukyu Kingdom era and sewn using a unique Ryukyuan sewing technique.

Ukufuan, food bowl in stand for sacred offerings, goldinlaid cinnabar lacquer with tomoe crest (Reproduction)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Ukufuan, food bowl in stand for sacred offerings, gold-inlaid cinnabar lacquer with tomoe crest

Ukufuan is a food bowl used in rituals by the Ryukyuan royal family. The chinkin technique, in which thin lines are incised and inlaid with gold leaf, is used to express the hijaigumun (leftwise triple comma-shape design) crest symbolizing the royal family and peonies-and-arabesque pattern. The lid is made by coiling a thin strip of wood to form a dome, a technique known as Kentai. Multiple wood pieces are joined to shape the bowl.
Under this program, the Utukubun of Nakagusuku Udun was reproduced based on old photo in the Yoshitaro Kamakura Documents while referencing the Ukufuan in possession of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.

Utukubun, Gold-Inlaid Cinnabar Lacquer Food Tray for memorial Services, Nakagusuku UdunOriginal Source: Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts University Library and Arts Museum

Utukubun, Gold-Inlaid Cinnabar Lacquer Food Tray
for Memorial Services, Nakagusuku Udun (Original)

Base Production (Lid of Ukufuan)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Wood strips were coiled to form a dome (Kentai technique).

Base Production (Bowl of Ukufuan)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Multiple wood pieces were joined together to shape the bowl and stand.

Lacquer Decoration (Black lacquer) - UkufuanOriginal Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Lacquer was applied to be absorbed by the wooden base.
Gaps and joints were filled. Cloth was applied for reinforcement. Undercoat was applied and polished. Black lacquer was applied and polished.

Lacquer Decoration (Cinnabar lacquer) - UkufuanOriginal Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Application of cinnabar lacquer.

Chinkin Decoration - UkufuanOriginal Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Lines were incised on the lacquered surface with a knife and inlaid with gold leaf.(Chinkin technique)

Production Process (Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons)Original Source: Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Afterword

The seven-year long extended term project involves 24 supervising experts comprised of human national treasures, specialists and researchers from both within and outside Okinawa. Over 300 people are engaged in the reproduction efforts including: organizations accredited as holders of nationally-designated important intangible cultural property, organizations and individuals recognized as holders of Okinawa Prefecture-designated intangible cultural property, as well as students from both the Tokyo University of the Arts and the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. Reproduction provides opportunities to experience the original production process, unveil the secrets of the artisanry of the Kingdom era, and appreciate the wisdom of our predecessors.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Reconstructing Shurijo Castle
Discover how the Japanese World Heritage Site was digitally recreated from tourist photographs after a devastating fire in 2019
View theme
Google apps