Jishazoeiryotosen is a group of traveling vessels that were dispatched to the Yuan Dynasty under authorization of the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) for the purpose of making profits to cover the costs of repair and construction of major temples and shrines in the first half of the 14th century (from the late Kamakura period through the period of the Northern and Southern Courts -Japan). In particular such vessels named Kenchojibune (a group of traveling vessels that were dispatched to Yuan dynasty in order to make profits to cover the costs of repair and construction on Kencho-ji Temple) and Tenryujibune (trading vessels dispatched to the Yuan dynasty in order to raise funds to build Tenryu-ji Temple in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts) are the most famous. In the history of the relationship between Japan and China, those vessels were semi-official trading ships that likened to the period when relations worsened due to the Mongol invasion attempts against Japan (13th century) and the period when Japan and the Ming dynasty in China started trade (15th century).
The relationship between Japan and Yuan Dynasty
The two wars, Bunei War and Koan War (Mongol invasion attempts against Japan), made the relationship between Japan and the Yuan Dynasty decisively worsened. Later Kublai (Khan) (Seiso [one of the temple names for monarchs who built the basis of the Imperial Family])planed the third invasion of Japan, but did not put it into practice because of the weakening of his navy force and domestic revolts. In the Japan side, on the other hand, Kamakura bakufu kept alert against the third invasion by establishing Chinzei tandai (the office of the military governor of Kyushu) without releasing Saigoku-gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate of the western part of Japan, esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki) who had engaged in Ikoku keiko banyaku (military service imposed by bakufu in order to prepare against the invasion of Yuan Dynasty). After the death of Kublai however, anti-war trend spread on the Yuan Dynasty side. In addition, with an aim to prevent piratical private trades by wako (Japanese pirates), the dynasty came to desire peaceful trades with Japan (trade between Japan and Yuan Dynasty) by establishing Shihakushi (the public office that operated on trade on the sea in China from T'ang-Dynasty period to the Ming Dynasty period) in Quanzhou, Qingyuan, and Ningbo.
Demand for costs of construction on major temples and shrines
In the late Kamakura period, middle and small classes of gokenin who supported the Shogunate not only had to increase their expenditures for military service in the Kyushu area to provide against the invasion of the Yuan Dynasty, but also became gradually insignificant and impoverished due to the penetration of the money economy and divided succession.
The Shogunate's revenue from the shoen (manor in medieval Japan) and koryo (an imperial demesne) decreased because of rampancy of akuto (a villain in the medieval times) and pirates who did not obey the control of the government and honjo (proprietor or guarantor of a manor)
Furthermore, government expenditures to put down akuto pressed the finances of the bakufu. In the late Kamakura period, however, there were more needs to newly build or rebuild shrines and temples because of the spread of Kamakura Bukkyo (new Buddhist movements of the Kamakura period) as well as damages to major shrines and temples from fire. To obtain a huge amount of revenue to cover these building expenses, the bakufu paid attention to the income brought about by trading vessels as a new revenue source.
Coming and going of Zen priests
Many Zen priests visited Japan from the late 13th century to the early 14th century including Rankei Doryu (Lanxi Daolong) and Gottan Funei, who crossed over to Japan from Southern Sung Dynasty (ruined in 1279), Mugaku Sogen, who visited Japan by invitation of Tokimune HOJO, and Issan Ichinei (Yishan Yining), who visited Japan as a kokushi (envoys dispatched from provincial governors) from the Yuan Dynasty. Many of the followers who were educated by them wanted to go to Yuan to study. In addition, magnates of the bakufu, who embraced the Zen sect, increasingly invited distinguished Zen priests from Yuan to Japan despite the tense relationship between the countries. It is convenient for many of these priests to come and go on board merchant ships that carried on trade between Japan and Yuan. In diaries of these Buddhist priests, their visits and returns home on board merchant ships were frequently described. It is presumed that Jishazoeiryotosen was used for these priests to travel across the sea.
Main purposes of the dispatch of Tosen
A prevailing view on the Jishazoeiryotosen was that, as described above, they were dispatched out of necessity of the bakufu or shines and temples, but recent studies suggest that merchants in Hakata rather had the purpose of trade and that the willingness to use a part of profits for the building expenses were only a pretext.
In particular, in 1976, a junk (ship) carrying a heavy load was discovered on the bottom of the ocean off 道徳 island of Chibu-ub, Sinan, Jeollanam-do, Republic of Korea and was pulled up (a wrecked ship found in Shinan, South Korea). This caused a major correction to past prevailing understanding of the Jishazoeiryotosen. Relics (of the past) pulled up from the wrecked ship included 18,000 ceramic ware items including white and celadon porcelains and tenmoku tea bowls, 8 million copper coins weighing 25 tons, and 346 pieces of tsumini mokkan (narrow, long, and thin pieces of wood strung together that were used to write names of trading items on). Like the Tofuku-ji zoeiryotosen (a group of traveling vessels that were dispatched to the Yuan Dynasty in order to make profits to cover the costs of repair and construction on Tofuku-ji Temple), this ship (the wrecked ship found in Shinan, South Korea)is considered to have been a trading vessel to be dispatched for the purpose of building the Tofuku-ji Temple (Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City). 110 pieces of the Tsumini mokkan have the mark 'Goji' (meaning the captain of a trading ship) on them and the most of them have 'Goji shi' (items for the private use of Goji), suggesting that many private trading goods for merchants were included.
Shosuke MURAI suggests that trading merchants based in Hakata were main sponsors for this ship and that Tofuku-ji Temple and the bakufu were only the shipper. Furthermore not only the wrecked ship, but many other Jishazoeiryotosen in this period were considered to have been in effect mainly sponsored by trading merchants based in Hakata. Since the start of trade between Japan and Sung Dynasty during the Heian period, there had been a residential area called 'Tobo' or 'Daitogai,' residential areas in which merchants from Northern Sung Dynasty resided. However, the residential area had became smaller because such merchants returned to China or settled in Japan with the collapse of the Sung Dynasty. In addition, the worsening relationship between Japan and the Yuan Dynasty had made it difficult for Chinese merchants to live in Hakata. Therefore, trading merchants had to navigate ships constantly without staying in Hakata long. This may have accelerated competition among the merchants. In these situations, competing merchants joined hands with the political force of Japan (samurai families or families that own and resided in temples) with a pretext of building temples and shrines to compete with more profitable conditions. This can be what Jishazoeiryotosen really was like.
Although there were, in fact, several cases where the bakufu ordered Saigoku-gokenin to guard Tosen running along domestic coasts, the government did not guard the ships after they ran out into the open sea and basically left the guard to the merchants.. Also a record that Yuan officials on the alert for wako obstructed the entry of a Tenryujibune into harbor when it tried to land Yuan shows that an official approval of the bakufu was substantially ineffective (which did not establish its identity of not being a smuggling ships [wako]). The bakufu's part in the trading may have been less active than ever believed.
In addition, the wrecked ship found in Shinan, South Korea is considered to have been made of Ficus microcarpa originating from the Konan region, China and of a junk type that was often seen in Southern China. This shows the possibility that a merchant who became the Goji were from China or that the trading ship had been built in China.
At that time, however, nationality may have hardly mattered to such traders, including the wako involved in smuggling, along the coasts on national borders
Historical material of the Yuan Dynasty shows that vessels coming from Hakata, no matter where the Goji came from, was dealt with as a Japanese (wako) vessel.
Jishazoeiryotosen commonly took the route between Hakata and Neiha City (later Ningbo, Mingzhou) but sometimes used the seaport in Fuzhou instead of Qingyuan.
In 1306, a Shomyo-ji zoeiryotosen was dispatched to make profits to cover the costs of repair and construction of Shomyo-ji Temple (Kanazawa Ward, Yokohama City). The main sponsor is believed to be the Hojo clan (Kanazawa school), a senior vassal of the Kamakura bakufu. An ancient document of the Kanazawa Library describes that Shunnyobo Kaiyo (俊如房快誉), a priest of the Shomyo-ji Temple went on board it.
At that time, Sesson Yubai, a Zen priest of Kennin-ji Temple entered Yuan, which may have related to this Tosen. The trading vessel seem to have traveled again in 1307. When trouble between Shihakushi and Japanese merchants triggered arson and looting on a street in Neiha City, Sesson Yubai was arrested and charged with being a spy.
They were dispatched around 1315. To make profits to cover the costs of repair and construction of Gokuraku-ji Temple (Kamakura City) (present-day Kamakura City) that burnt down in a fire, Enrinbo (円琳坊) went to the capital (Kyoto) for a purpose of visiting Tang and soon left for Chikuzen Province in 1308. Later a letter was found that welcomed a return of Shomyo-ji zoeiryotosen.
Tofuku-ji zoeiryotosen (presumably, the wrecked ship found in Shinan, South Korea)
A large amount of tsumini mokkan were included in the relics pulled up from a sunken ship, which was discovered in Shinan, South Korea in 1976, as if it reveals who sponsored the dispatch of the Tosen. Such names as 'Goji,' 'Tofuku-ji Temple,' and 'Hakozakihachiman-gu Shrine' are found on many of these mokkan. A trading ship bound for Hakata from China is believed to have sunk for some reason. This ship is presumed to have been a Tosen dispatched to raise funds to construct Tofuku-ji Temple burnt down in 1319, because words 'ten kan (an unit of currency) for public use' are found on the back side of the mokkan with 'Tofuku-ji Temple' on it. This ship is believed to have entered Yuan in 1323 and the Tofuku-ji Temple was reconstructed two years later in March, 1325.
Shochoju-in and Kencho-ji zoeiryotosen
A ship (also known as Kenchojibune) was dispatched for the purpose of contriving funds to repair Kencho-ji Temple and Kencho-ji Buddhist Temple in Kamakura City burnt down in a fire in August 1325. The ship returned Japan in October, 1326. The orders to guard the domestic (sea) route were given to Chikuzen Province in the outward journey and the Satsuma Province for the return trip. The dispatch originally had been scheduled a year earlier in 1324, but was put off due to Shochu Disturbance.
Chugan Engetsu, Fumon Kaimon, and other Zen priests went on board to study in Yuan. On the other hand, Zen priests in Yuan, Seisetsu Shocho (at the request of Takatoki HOJO), as well as Japanese priests, Kosen Ingen and Muin Genkai are believed to have been on board traveling to and return from Japan.
A letter sent to Sadayuki HOJO (Rokuhara Tandai [an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto]), a son of the regent, Sadaaki HOJO at an unknown date (1329 is the widely-accepted theory) says that Kotoku-in zoeiryotosen (a group of traveling vessels that were dispatched to the Yuan dynasty in order to make profits to cover the costs of repair and construction of Kotoku-in Temple) was scheduled to travel to Sung in the following year. However, it is unknown whether the Tosen in effect offered the cost for the construction expenses of Kotoku-in Temple (Kamakura Great Buddha). Zen priests such as Sesson Yubai, who had entered Yuan, and a high priests in Yuan, Minki Soshun and Jikusen Bonsen are believed to have reached Japan using 'a commercial vessel' this year (believed to have been a Japanese ship that had reached Fuzhou during the previous year). When the ship returned to Yuan, it may have been designated as Kanto-daibutsu zoeiryotosen.
It was a Tosen dispatched in 1332 for the purpose of making profits to cover the costs of construction of Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine in Settsu Province (present-day Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City). A Zen priest, Chugan Engetsu, who had entered Yuan from Japan, returned home on a trading ship during that year. Therefore, the ship, like Kanto-daibutsu zoeiryotosen above, is believed to have been designated as Sumiyoshi-jinja zoeiryotosen when it traveled to Yuan again. The Kamakura bakufu had fallen when the ship returned home to reconstruct Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine. The Emperor Godaigo commanded to use the profits for construction expenses.
A record says that trading ships had been suspended for ten years before the Tenryu-ji zoeiryotosen mentioned later was dispatched in 1342, indicating that this Sumiyoshi-jinja zoeiryotosen was the last Jishazoeiryotosen during the Kamakura period. After that Tosen stopped coming and going partly because the Kamakura bakufu fell.
For details, see Tenryujibune.
Advised by Muso Soseki after the demise of Emperor Godaigo of the Southern Dynasty (Japan) in 1339, Takauji ASHIKAGA, the seii taishogun (great general who subdues the barbarians) of the Northern Dynasty (Japan) decided to build Tenryu-ji Temple (present day Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City). However the Muromachi Bakufu, which had just been established, did not have sufficient financial ability under the disturbances between Northern and Southern Dynasties. On February 7, 1342, vice-shogun Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA followed the example of the Kamakura bakufu in seeking advice of Muso and proposed the dispatch of zoeiryososen (trading vessels) in Autumn of the next year. A merchant in Hakata, Shihon, was designated as Goji. Shihon promised to offer 5,000 kanmon regardless of the outcome of the trading, and sailed to Yuan in September 1342 as scheduled. It was the first trading ship in ten years after Sumiyoshi-jinja zoeiryotosen.
For reference, the ship was called 'Zo Tenryu-ji sosen.'
About 60 Zen priests including Shokai Reiken and Guchu Shukyu were on board Tenryujibune. However it is said that Chinese officials prevented the entry of the ship into Ming, and only 11 priests were permitted to enter Ming, because, after the Wako Incidents between 1335 and 1336, the Yuan regarded Japanese vessels arriving in Neiha City (Meishu (Ningbo), later Neiha) as pirate ships and strictly restricted them from going in and out of the port.
With the profits from this Tosen, the Tenryu-ji Temple was built and completed in November 1343.
Ryobyoin zoeiryotosen (Suspension)
The dispatch was planned by a medical doctor Nyudo Dosen (入道道仙) in Tajima Province in 1367 for repair and construction of the Ryobyoin. The Yuan Dynasty was threatened by the newly emerged Ming Dynasty, and pressed northward to the Mongolian plateau (to become Hokugen - the successor of the Mongol Dynasty) the following year.
Proceeding with trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China
The age of trading vessels dispatched to Yuan ended because the grounds given to Tosen disappeared under the confusion of the central governments of both Japan and China due to the fall of Yuan as well as continued disturbances between Northern and Southern Dynasties. However the necessity for the trading vessels never faded because the development of money economy required a large quantity of copper coins in Japan, where coins were not cast in those days, and because the demands for Chinese products of culture including ceramic ware, pottery, and chinaware called 'karamono' (things imported from China) were still intense. This led to the prevalence of private trading ships taking advantage of the domestic confusion, resulting in the emergence of piracy, or so called 'early wako' along Konan coasts and Korean Peninsula.
The new Ming Dynasty established in 1368 following the retreat of Yuan had a strong Sinocentrism coming from a pretension as a dynasty that was able to recapture the Chinese style from Mongolia. It did not authorize private trading but attempted to authorize only the official international tribute trading called sakuho system (the Chinese vassal system) (Kaikin Policy [the policy to forbid private people to trade with foreign countries]). In 1368, Emperor Kobu (Shu GENSHO) soon announced the establishment of the new dynasty and requests for tributes to neighboring foreign countries. An additional request to Japan was the suppression of wako.
In Japan, where disturbances between the Northern and Southern Courts had not been contained (in particular in Kyushu district including Hakata), Imperial Prince Kanenaga (Kaneyoshi) of the Southern Court who received a messenger from Ming was sealed as 'King of Japan.'
However Imperial Prince Kanenaga who did not have the financial abilities to host the tribute trade nor the force of the navy to crack down on wako left the status without meeting the Ming expectations. The trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China (the tally trade - between Japan and the Ming Dynasty) started from the early 15th century when Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA who unified the Northern and Southern Courts and established his stable political administration officially received sakuho (homage by Chinese emperors) from Ming Dynasty.