Kings in All But Name: The Lost History of Ouchi Rule in Japan, 1350 - 1569

Oxford University Press

In the sixteenth century, members of the Ouchi family were kings in all but name in much of Japan. Immensely wealthy, they controled sea lanes stretching to Korea and China, as well as the Japanese city of Yamaguchi, which functioned as an important regional port with a growing population and a host of temples and shrines. The family was unique in claiming ethnic descent from Korean kings, and-remarkably for this time-such claims were recognized in both Korea and Japan. Their position, coupled with dominance over strategic ports and mines, allowed them to facilitate trade throughout East and Southeast Asia. They also played a key cultural role in disseminating Confucian texts, Buddhist sutras, ink paintings, and pottery, and in creating a distinctive, hybrid culture that fused Japanese, Korean, and Chinese beliefs, objects, and customs.

Kings in All But Name illustrates how Japan was an ethnically diverse state from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, closely bound by trading ties to Korea and China. It reveals new archaeological and textual evidence proving that East Asia had integrated trading networks long before the arrival of European explorers and includes an analysis of ores and slag that shows how mining techniques improved and propelled East Asian trade. The story of the Ouchi rulers argues for the existence of a segmented polity, with one center located in Kyoto, and the other in the Ouchi city of Yamaguchi. It also contradicts the belief that Japan collapsed into centuries of turmoil and rather proves that Japan was a stable and prosperous trading state where rituals, policies, politics, and economics were interwoven and diverse.

About the Author

Thomas D. Conlan is Professor of Japanese History in the East Asian Studies and History Departments at Princeton University. His research focuses on medieval Japanese culture, war, law, religion, and society. He has also written widely about samurai (warrior) culture in Japan, and the Mongol invasions, as well as the political significance of religious rituals. His publications include Samurai and the Warrior Culture of Japan, 471-1877, From Sovereign to Symbol, Samurai Weapons and Fighting Techniques, 1200-1877, State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth-Century Japan, and In Little Need of Divine Intervention.

Area of Interest
Art History
Conflict Studies
Cultural History
Diplomatic History
Economic History
Immigration & Migration
Legal History
Material Culture
Military History
Race & Ethnicity
Science and Technology Studies
Social History
Urban History
War & Society
6th through 14th Centuries
15th & 16th Centuries