Japanese missions to Tang China

A mission ship reconstructed for Shanghai Expo 2010 (Hakata Bay, May 14, 2010)

Japanese missions to Tang China (遣唐使, Kentōshi) represent Japanese efforts to learn from the Chinese culture and civilization in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries. The nature of these contacts evolved gradually from political and ceremonial acknowledgment to cultural exchanges; and the process accompanied the growing commercial ties which developed over time.[1]

Between 607 and 838, Japan sent 19 missions to China. Knowledge and learning was the principal objective of each expedition. For example: Priests studied Chinese Buddhism. Officials studied Chinese government. Doctors studied Chinese medicine. Painters studied Chinese painting. Approximately one third of those who embarked from Japan did not survive to return home.[2]

Year Sender Japanese envoys Chinese monarch Comments
630-632 Jomei Inugami no Mitasuki (犬上御田鍬)
Kusushi Enichi (藥師惠日)
Taizong Accompanied on return by Tang emissary Gao Biaoren (高表仁)
653-654 Kotoku Kishi no Nagani (吉士長丹)
Kishi no Koma (吉士駒)
Takada no Nemaro (高田根麻呂)
Kanimori no Omaro (掃守小麻呂)
Gaozong Vessel carrying Takada no Nemaro foundered on outward journey near the island of Takeshima in Satsuma Province
654-655 Kōtoku Takamuko no Kuromaro[3]
Kawabe no Maro (河邊)
Kusushi Enichi
Gaozong Takamuko died in China[3]
659-661 Saimei Sakaibe no Iwashiki (坂合部石布)
Tsumori no Kisa (津守吉祥)
Iki no Hakatoko (伊吉博德)[4]
Gaozong Sakaibe died during trip
665-667 Tenji Mori no Ōishi (守大石)
Sakaibe no Iwatsumi (坂合部岩積)
Gaozong May have transported Tang emissary Liu Degao (劉德高) to army stationed at old Paekche garrison
667-668 Tenji Iki no Hakatoko
Kasa no Moroishi (笠諸石)
Gaozong Transported Tang emissary Sima Facong (司馬法聰) to army stationed at old Paekche garrison
669-670 Tenji Kawachi no Kujira (河内鯨) Gaozong Celebrated subjugation of Koguryŏ
702-704 Mommu Awata no Mahito (粟田真人)
Takahashi no Kasama (高橋笠間)
Sakaibe no Ōkita (坂合部大分)
Yamanoue no Okura (山上憶良)
Kose no Ōji (巨勢祖父)
Wu Zetian Kose no Ōji returned home in 707; Awata no Mahito returned in 718
717-718 Genshō Tajihi no Agatamori (多治比縣守)
Abe no Yasumaro (阿倍安麻呂)
Ōtomo no Yamamori (大伴山守)
Fujiwara no Umakai (藤原馬養)
Xuanzong Awata no Mahito returned in 718; students Abe no Nakamaro and Kibi no Makibi as well as monk Genbō (玄昉) joined this embassy[5]
733-734 Shōmu Tajihi no Hironari (多治比廣成)
Nakatomi no Nashiro (中臣名代)
Xuanzong 4 ships set out on this voyage, and one ship returned in 734; another ship returned in 736; Magistrate Heguri no Hironari (平群廣成) returned in 739
746- Shōmu Isonokami no Otomaro (石上乙麻呂) Xuanzong cancelled
750-753 Kōken[6] Fujiwara no Kiyokawa (藤原清河)
Ōtomo no Komaro (大伴古麻呂)
Kibi no Makibi (吉備真備)
Xuanzong Ship carrying Fujiwara no Kiyokawa and Abe no Nakamaro shipwrecked in Annam; both became Tang officials and never returned home
761-761 Junnin Kō Gendo (高元度) Suzong With aim of retrieving Kiyokawa, traveled with Balhae ambassador returning home via Balhae; returned home with send-off by Tang emissary Shen Weiyue (沈惟岳)
761- Junnin Naka no Iwatomo (仲石伴)
Isonokami no Yakatsugu (石上宅嗣)
Fujiwara no Tamaro (藤原田麻呂)
Suzong cancelled due to damage to vessels
762- Junnin Nakatomi no Takanushi (中臣鷹主)
Koma no Hiroyama (高麗廣山)
Daizong Cancelled due to lack of favorable wind
777-778 Kōnin Saeki no Imaemishi (佐伯今毛人)
Ōtomo no Masutate (大伴益立)
Fujiwara no Takatori (藤原鷹取)
Ono no Iwane (小野石根)
Ōmiwa no Suetari (大神末足)
Daizong All four vessels shipwrecked en route home; Ono no Iwane and Tang emissary Zhao Baoying (趙寶英) died
779-781 Kōnin Fuse no Kiyonao (布勢清直) Dezong Tang emissary Sun Xingjin 孫興進 et al. sent off at Mingzhou
804-805 Kammu Fujiwara no Kadonomaro (藤原葛野麻呂)
Ishikawa no Michimasu (石川道益)
Dezong 4 ships on this mission; vessel 3 shipwrecked at Hirado on the outward journey; news of vessel 4 unknown; Kūkai and Saichō joined this embassy
838-839 Ninmyō Fujiwara no Tsunetsugu (藤原常嗣)
Ono no Takamura (小野篂)
Wenzong Vessel 3 shipwrecked soon after departure at Tsukushi; its 140 passengers did not reach China; the monks Ennin and Ensai on board; passengers on vessels 1 and 4 hired Silla vessels and split up for the voyage home; returning in 839 with a letter from Chinese emperor;[7] vessel 2 returned home in 840
894- Uda Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真)
Ki no Haseo (紀長谷雄)
Zhaozong cancelled

See also


Kibi Makibi (695-775) in a book illustration by Kikuchi Yōsai.
  1. Fogel, Joshua A. (2009). Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time, pp. 102-107.
  2. Hoffman, Michael. "Cultures Combined in the Mists of Time: Origins of the China-Japan relationship," Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. February 3, 2006; reprinting article in Japan Times, January 29, 2006.
  3. 1 2 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Takamuko no Kuromaro (no Genri)" in Japan encyclopedia, p. 935, p. 935, at Google Books; n.b., Louis-Frédéric is pseudonym of Louis-Frédéric Nussbaum, see Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Authority File.
  4. Nussbaum, "Iki no Hakatoko" at pp. 379-380, p. 379, at Google Books
  5. Fogel, Joshua. (1996). The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China, p. 22, p. 22, at Google Books; excerpt, "Like Genbō, Kibi no Makibi remained in China after the embassy ships returned to Japan, returning home himself at the same time as Genbo seventeen years later."
  6. Titsingh, Issac. (1834). Annales des empereurs, p. 74., p. 74, at Google Books
  7. Titsingh, p. 108., p. 108, at Google Books


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