Nisso Boeki (Japan-Sung Trade) (日宋貿易)

Nisso boeki was the trade done between Japan and the Sung Dynasty (Southern Sung Dynasty) in China. The trade was done from the 10th through 13th century, which is equivalent to mid Heian through mid Kamakura period in Japan. It was the first diplomacy between Japan and China since sending Kento-shi (Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China) from Japan had been stopped.


The trade was done among the three countries including Goryeo in the Korean Peninsula. In Japan Tsuruga, Echizen Province, and Hakata where many Chinese lived in the Kamakura Period became international cities and were the bases for the trade.

Heian Period

The Sung Dynasty (960-1279) which was established in 960 placed shihakushi (the public office that operated on trade on the sea in China from Tang-Dynasty period to Ming Dynasty period) in various places, and traded with Japan and Korea, and it also did the trade between China and countries in the southern area. In Japan, trade via the Korokan (International Reception Hall in the then capital, Heian-kyo [present day Kyoto]) was being conducted under the supervision of the Dazaifu (local government office in Kyushu region). However, although the function of Dazaifu did not disappear, the trade decreased drastically. The official trade between Japan and China stopped, and ordinary people's overseas travel was prohibited. The merchants in Sung mainly came to Hakata and Tsuruga, Echizen Province, to do private trade with Japanese.

TAIRA no Tadamori, who was also Echizen no kami (Governor of Echizen Province), aiming at the trade between Japan and China, governed Kanzaki no sho (imperial estate) in Hizen Province which was goinryo (lands attached to the place of a retired emperor), and did his own trade. He presented imported articles to the retired emperor and came to be recognized as a trusted vassal. With the establishment of Taira clan government, the Taira clan did trade with silver produced in Ise Province, which was the basis of the force of the clan, as an export item. TAIRA no Kiyomori became Dazai no daini (Senior Assistant Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices) in 1158 just before the Heiji War. He built the artificial harbor in Hakata for the first time in Japanese history and began trade in earnest. He eliminated the power of temples and shrines and managed to take control of sea routes in Seto Inland Sea. He maintained the sea routes and administered the port entry and did the Pilgrimage to Itsukushima by Sung-era ship. In 1173 he extended Owada no tomari (part of present Kobe Port), which was the outer port of Fukuhara-kyo (Capital of Fukuhara), Settsu Province, and established diplomatic relations with China to promote trade. On the other hand, such measures caused price increase by the huge influx of Sung currency and social anxiety against foreign countries since the fall of Tang Dynasty.

Kamakura Period

There was no official diplomacy between Japan and China in the Kamakura period after the fall of the Heike government. But, Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) allowed private trade and came to have Chinzei Bugyo (Defense Commissioner of the West) govern Hakata and send official merchant ships of the bakufu. The trade continued until the end of Southern Sung Dynasty. As the Tokuso Family of the Hojo clan also supported the Zen sect that samurai class worshiped, the private monks from China came to Japan on board the trade ships. The coming and going of people and goods continued after the attacking the Southern Sung by the Mongolian Empire went into full swing.

Japan's economic exchange with Southern Sung affected the Mongolian invasion attempts against Japan, and the trade between Japan and Yuan Dynasty was done even after the fall of Southern Dynasty as the extension of the trade. But the instances of the trade between the two countries became scarce in historical materials, and it is considered that Chinese merchants residing in Japan had been already difficult by then.

Import and export items

The Sung currency, ceramics and silk goods, books and stationery, perfume materials and medicines, and fine arts including pictures were imported into Japan. Minerals such as copper and sulfur, lumber produced in western pars of Japan including Suo Province and handicrafts including Japanese swords were exported from Japan. The Sung currency imported into Japan helped the development of currency use in Japan, and the imported Buddhist scriptures affected Kamakura Bukkyo (new Buddhist movements of the Kamakura period).

[Original Japanese]