The Alternative Chinatown: Lewchew (Ryukyu) Kume Village and “36 Min Families” (另類唐人街 -「閩人三十六姓」與琉球久米村)

in Translocal Chinese: East Asian Perspectives
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Kumemura Village, or Kuninda, has been known as the community of Chinese immigrants with a more than five-hundred year background of scholar-bureaucrat aristocracy in Lewchew, or Ryukyu. They supposedly originated from a group of 36 families from the Southern Chinese Min (閩) ethnic group since 1392. Although much research has been conducted on the subject matter throughout the years, there is almost no scholar who would tackle it on the concept of a “Chinatown.” There are basically two reasons to account for such tendency in academics. Firstly, unlike most Chinese immigrant groups in other parts of the world, the 36 Min Families who had moved to Lewchew did not leave the country of their own accord, for neither private nor economic reasons, but in fact, were ordered by Emperor Hongwu to emigrate for political reasons. Furthermore, Kuninda-chu, the descendants of 36 Min Families, have almost, in the same way as other Okinawa people regard them over the years, never seen themselves as “overseas Chinese.”

However, this paper argues that there are still plenty of similarities between Kuninda-chu and other overseas Chinese in the world. The two main points for this paper are: firstly, Kuninda-chu relied excessively on the Chinese World Order and tributary system for its maintenance, so its survival rested primarily on the existence of this political structure, and was eventually disintegrated upon the collapse of the system. Secondly, Chinese culture was largely brought by Kuninda-chu to Ryukyu during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, but it is still kept alive and observed in Okinawa society to this day and in stark contrast with the Yamaonchu, the Japanese in the mainland of Japan, it directly helped shaping and forming the Okinawa people’s self-identity as Uchinan-chu.

Truly, Kuninda no longer exists in the Okinawa society today, but Kuninda-chu’s descendants have been upholding their unique ethic image through various traditional activities organized by different groups, Kume-Sosekai notwithstanding. Moreover, Kuninda-chu is also one of the earliest overseas Chinese groups who had assimilated successfully into the local Okinawa community. It is clear that Kuninda is one of the most paramount alternative cases for the studies of overseas Chinese.



儘管「久米村」已不復存在,然而擁有500年歷史的「久米村」留下了龐大有跡可尋的歷史紀錄,而「久米村人」的後裔至今仍透過許多聯誼組織,低調地繼續維繫著在琉球社會中獨特族群的形象,而「久米村人」也是歷史上華僑最早「落地生根」的族群之一,提供了華僑、華人研究不可多得的重要個案。 (This article is in Chinese.)





吳靄華,〈十四至十九世紀琉球久米村人與琉球對外關係之研究〉,《國立 臺灣師範大學歷史學報》,1991,19:1。






赤嶺守,〈琉球処分と久米村〉,收入池宮正治・小渡清孝・田名真之,《久 米村―歴史と人物―》,ひるぎ社,1989,頁81。

新城俊昭編,《高等学校琉球・沖縄史》(新訂・増補版),那覇:工房東洋 企画,2001,頁39–40。

太田良博,《間違いだらけの沖縄史――陰の王国「那覇朱明府」》,那 覇:月刊沖縄社,1983。 沖繩大百科事典刊行事務局,《沖繩大百科事典 中卷》,頁638。

池宮正治・小渡清孝・田名真之,《久米村―歴史と人物―》,ひるぎ社, 1989。田名真之,「古琉球の久米村」,《新琉球史――古琉球編》,那覇:琉球新 報社,1992,頁223–258。

田名真之,「近世久米村の成立と展開」,《新琉球史――近世編》,那覇: 琉球新報社,1992,頁159–180。



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  • 閩人傳至琉球的「爬龍(船)」(琉球大學提供)。

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