2. The Mysteries of Naha Te (K)

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2. The Mysteries of Naha Te (K)

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By Graham Noble

October 2017: Andreas Quast translated a recent article referring to Kanryo Higaonna by Dana Masayuki, an expert of Okinawan studies. This discounted the possibility that Kanryo Higaonna had gone to China at the age of 14 or 15 (late 1860s) and noted that travelling from Ryukyu to China was forbidden from 1875. After 1879 and the establishment of Okinawa-ken “it was known that many Ryūkyūan patriots who petitioned for the rescue of their country with the Qing authorities stayed at the former Ryūkyūan consulate in Fuzhou [known as the Ryūkyūkan]. After they returned home one after another since the 1880s, the name Higaonna is not found in the list of repatriates. Confirmation of the statement [that Higaonna went to China] so far is quite difficult. (Okinawa Times: Okinawa Karate History, October 1, 2017).”

Andreas commenteed that “If Higaonna Sensei traveled at about 20 years of age (i.e. in 1872 or 1873) after he reached the age for official travel duty, then it is possible that he traveled for 2 or 3 years until 1875, when travel was prohibited. In that case, as I mentioned in the article "Tōdī Sakugawa", his possible length of stay in Fuzhou would have been between 1/2 a year and 1 1/2 years, so he could have studied that much there.

“But at a young age, such as 20 years, there is the question whether Higaonna Sensei could be selected smoothly for official duty to China. Because persons for official duty to China were commonly selected from among those who had rendered meritorious service for many years as permanent officials (clerk [hissha] or private secretary [yūhitsu]) of the royal government of Ryūkyū.

“On the other hand, since Higaonna Sensei worked as a firewood trader who helped his father since childhood, he seems to have no job history as a royal official. So it is unlikely that he was suddenly chosen at the age of 20 to travel to China in official duty.

“The possibility remains that he secretly (and illegally) crossed over to China prior to 1875. But how many such illegal travels were possible prior to the abolition of the kingdom and establishment of Okinawa prefecture? Even if he arrived in Fuzhou, the question remains whether a secret (illegal) traveler would be protected at the former Ryūkyūan consulate in Fuzhou and whether he would find an employment on-site and could make a living.
 
“If secret (illegal) traveling is possible, naturally illegal trade (smuggling) is also possible, but wouldn't that be a violation to the tribute trade conducted by the Ryūkyū royal government? Reading the conclusion in the above-mentioned quotation that ‘Confirmation of the statement [that Higaonna went to China] so far is quite difficult,’ it seems that the likelihood of such a secret (illegal) travel is also quite difficult to maintain.”

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