Heguri no Hironari (平群広成)

HEGURI no Hironari (year of birth unknown - March 11, 753) was the hangan (the third officer) of the envoys to Tang China in the Nara period. The Heguri clan. He was a son of HEGURI no Toyomaro, Sanuki no kuni no kami (Provincial Governor of Sanuki). Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank), Musashi no kuni no kami (Provincial Governor of Musashi). His kabane (hereditary title) was HEGURI no Asomi.

He went over to Tang Dynasty China as a Japanese envoy, but he was shipwrecked on his way home. Although the ship drifted far to the Kingdom of Champa, he survived the shipwreck and returned to Japan. He is regarded as the one who had seen the most places in the world among the ancient Japanese.

Historical background

On March 6, 728, the envoys from Bokkai (Balhae) sailed across the Sea of Japan and visited the Heijo-kyu Palace for the first time. In September the year before, the envoys from Bokkai washed ashore in Ezochi (inhabited area of Ainu); 16 people including the ambassador Ko Jingi were attacked and killed by the Ezo (the Ainu people), and 8 others including the chieftain Ko Seitoku survived and reached Dewa Province, asking for help. The survivors presented the Imperial Court with a diplomatic message from guno (a second highest rank of the court rank) Bugei DAI (Dae Muye) of Bokkai, in which Bugei declared that Bokkai was established after the fall of Koguryo and that asked for good neighbor relations with Japan. Koguryo, which had cultural exchanges with Japan, was defeated by the Silla-Tang allied forces in 668; however, the surviving people established the country again. It was a matter for celebration for Japan; HIKETA no Mushimaro was appointed the envoy to Bokkai at once and headed for Bokkai to send the survivors including Ko Seitoku back home. On October 19, 730, HIKETA no Mushimaro returned to Japan with gifts and a diplomatic message from the king of Bokkai; it is considered that Mushimaro brought back the offer of military alliance between Japan and Bokkai from the king of Bokkai. In those days, Bugei DAI was opposed to Tang China over his younger brother Mongei DAI (Dae Munye), who had exiled himself to Tang China, creating a hair-trigger situation. If waging war against Tang China, it was obvious that Silla, the Southern neighbor of Bokkai, would support Tang China. It is considered that Bugei DAI tried to contain Silla by forming an alliance with Japan. The Sangoku shiki (or Samguk Sagi, History of the Three Kingdoms) contains a record of 300 Japanese warships attacking the east side of Silla in 731.

Although no historical sources have been found in Japan to confirm the attack on Silla, it was true that the appearance of Bokkai caused the tension between Japan and Silla. On February 26, 732, TSUNU no Ienushi was sent to Silla as an envoy and returned to Japan on September 8, after which there was a flurry of activity in the Japanese government. It was considered that extremely important information was brought by Ienushi. This is partly because that, on September 15, the Japanese government decided to dispatch envoys to Tang China and, at the same time, appointed high-ranking officials of the Imperial Court to regional military governors of the Tokai-do Road, the Tosan-do Road, the Sanin-do Road, and the Saikai-do Road. Also, on September 19, it was ordered to reinforce troops and enhance armaments. It was considered that when the Japanese government found out about the upcoming war in Silla between Tang China and Bokkai, it decided to participate in the war, but before that it managed to evacuate Japanese students and monks, who were left behind in Tang China after the previous envoys came back to Japan. In fact, neither new students nor monks were sent together with the envoys at that time.

The Japanese envoys to Tang China

Under the circumstances, HEGURI no Hironari was appointed the hangan for the envoys who were decided to be sent to Tang China. Hironari's previous career is unknown. The Heguri clan set up their base at Hegurino-kori in the northwestern part of Yamato Province, and during the fifth century, produced a minister who was so powerful as to influence over the state affairs; in the days of Hironari, the clan had become the house of middle-ranking officials, producing the governors of several provinces.

TAJIHI no Hironari, a younger brother of TAJIHI no Agatamori who was the previous ambassador to Tang China, was appointed the ambassador to Tang China this time. Agatamori, at that time, served as Chunagon (Middle Counselor), an important position in the government, and was also appointed a military governor of the Sanin-do Road. Nashiro, from the NAKATOMI family who were officially engaged in performing a religious service for the Imperial Court, was appointed a vice-ambassador. In addition, four hangan (counsellors) and four rokuji (officials administering affairs of secretary under the ritsuryo system) (secretaries) were appointed. HEGURI no Hironari was selected as one of four hangan. For dispatching the envoys, however, the vessels needed to be constructed first. On October 1, 732, the government ordered Omi Province, Tanba Province, Harima Province, and Bicchu Province to construct four vessels for the envoys to Tang China. Due to the tense situation, it seemed that the vessels were constructed in a rush. In any case, in March of next year, 733, the mission led by TAJIHI no Hironari, the ambassador, Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade, visited the Imperial Court, and on May 24, they departed from the port of Naniwa no Tsu on four vessels.

On the way, they were caught in a storm in the East China Sea; however, they safely managed to reach the shore in Suzhou City on four vessels. Upon arrival in Tang China, the party must have learned that the Bokkai navy had attacked Dengzhou in Shandong the previous year. The war had already started. In 733, Genso (Xuan Zong) of Tang China dispatched Mongei DAI to Yushu to form an army, and also ordered the King of Silla to attack Bokkai. However, both attempts ended in failure.
"Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau" compiled in Tang China describes that 'in the fourth month of the 22nd year of Kaigen era (734), the envoys came from Japan and presented the emperor with 200 rolls of thick silk fabric called Mino no ashiginu and another 200 rolls of thick silk fabric called Mizuori no ashiginu.'
Since it took almost one year for the party to give the tribute to the emperor of Tang China after their arrival in Suzhou City, they might have been detained there for a while. In any case, the party successfully gave the tribute to the emperor of Tang China, gathered the Japanese students and monks who remained there, and invited the gifted Chinese to Japan. At this time, KIBI no Makibi and Genbo, who visited Tang China on the previous vessels, agreed to return to Japan, but ABE no Nakamaro refused to do so because he had passed the kakyo (examinations for Chinese state bureaucrats) and taken the government post there.

In the tenth month of the same year, the party left the port under the jurisdiction of Suzhou on four vessels; however, they were caught in a storm in the East China Sea and lost sight of each other. Only the first vessel carrying the ambassador TAJIHI no Hironari washed ashore on Tanegashima Island, but the other vessels were nowhere to be seen. In fact, the second vessel carrying the vice-ambassador NAKATOMI no Nashiro washed ashore on the coast of Fujian Province, and was sent back to Changan. According to "Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau," the Japanese envoys visited the emperor of Tang China in the third month of the 23rd year of Kaigen era (735). The party led by the vice-ambassador had their vessel repaired with the aid of the Tang dynasty, and succeeded in arriving in the ancient capital of Nara in the eighth month of the year. The party brought three Chinese musicians and a Persian to Japan.


The Hangan HEGURI no Hironari on the third vessel was not as fortunate as others. The current carried the vessel southward forever and ever. The helm and sails were more than likely broken as well. No one knows about the fourth vessel. It seems like the fourth vessel sank into the ocean or washed ashore somewhere in the southern sea and broke down. One day, the third vessel carrying HEGURI no Hironari was finally washed ashore. Since the inhabitants had dark skin, it was understood that the place was the Kingdom of Champa. This is because the southern countries, the homelands of the dark skinned races including the Malay, were collectively called Champa by Chinese in those days. It is said that there were 115 survivors on the vessel, which means that only few had died during the drifting.

As soon as the Japanese disembarked, the armored local soldiers rushed at them. Since the party including Hironari was just the envoys to Tang China, they were not armed enough, and besides, they were too weak after the drifting to compete with the local soldiers. Some of them were killed by the Champa soldiers, and another took refuge in the jungle. The remaining 90 people were captured by the Champa soldiers, but most of them died of Malaria. Only HEGURI no Hironari and three other kako (sailors) survived. They were taken to the capital of Champa to have an audience with the King of Champa and kept in custody.

In 735, a Champa merchant, who lived in Qinzhou in Tang China, helped them to escape to Qinzhou (present Qinzhou in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of People's Republic of China, facing the Gulf of Tonkin.)
There was a Provincial Governor sent from Changan residing in Qinzhou, and Hironari and the sailors were sent back to the capital of Changan with the help of the Chinese government. Although there are several reasons why the place where the party led by HEGURI no Hironari drifted ashore can be identified as the Kingdom of Champa, the most conclusive reason is that "Nihonkokuo ni shokusuru no sho" (Vol. 287, all written in Chinese), drafted by Tang Prime Minister Zhang Jiuling who was notified of the arrival of Hironari and others at Qinzhou, clearly describes that "Hironari and others drifted to Lin-yi." The Kingdom of Champa was called Lin Yi in Chinese. Since this chokusho (official document issued by the Emperor) had been brought to Japan by the party led by NAKATOMI no Nashiro, the existence of HEGURI no Hironari was known even in Japan.

The way home

ABE no Nakamaro (Chinese name Chao Heng), who remained in Changan to serve the Tang dynasty, sought a way to send Hironari and others back to Japan. In those days, Silla was sending the envoys to Changan to give tribute to the emperor of Tang most frequently among other countries, and under normal conditions, the route via Silla was the fastest way to Japan; however, it was out of the question because there was a possibility of war between Japan and Silla in consideration of the purpose of sending the envoys to Tang China. In the meantime, Bokkai improved relations with Tang China and began sending the envoys to Changan; since Japan had maintained good relations with Bokkai, ABE no Nakamaro requested the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang to send Hironari and others back to Japan through Bokkai, which was approved. In other words, the Tang dynasty paid the expenses to send those Japanese back home.

Thus, in the tenth month of the 26th year of Kaigen era (738), Hironari and other survivors of envoys took sea route to Bokkai from Dengzhou on the Shandong peninsula. This happened to coincide with a time when the king Bugei DAI died and Kinmo DAI just succeeded to the throne in Bokkai. The capital of Bokkai, back then, was not in Shangjing Longquanfu yet (present Mudanjiang City, Heilongjiang Province, China); it was still at Dongmu Mountain (present Dunhua City, Yanbian Korean Autonomous prefecture in Jilin Province, in China). It happened that the government of Bokkai was preparing to send the envoys to Japan to announce the enthronement of the new emperor, and suggested Hironari to wait for the Japanese envoys to come; however, Hironari insisted on returning to Japan as soon as possible.
No record on the port they left has been found yet, but it was supposedly the port of Enshu (present the Pochette port in the territory of Russia.)
Although the Bokkai envoys to Japan sailed southward into the Sea of Japan on two vessels, a big wave overturned one of the vessels and drowned those including the ambassador. Hironari, who was on the other vessel, had a narrow escape, and in August 739, managed to arrive at Dewa Province; in November 739, he entered the capital of Nara with the Bokkai envoys including the vice-ambassador 已珎蒙.

This description is based on the report made by HEGURI no Hironari in those days, which was contained in the Shoku Nihongi.

Hironari in later life

Although not as a student but as a hangan of the envoys to Tang China, Hironari, who had traveled across several countries for six years, was one of the best intellectuals in Japan in those days and appointed an important position from the Imperial Court. After returning to Japan, Hironari served the Imperial Court by making the best use of the knowledge he gained through drifting, and moved up the ladder without any blunders.

Right after his return to Japan, the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu broke out; in 743, he was appointed Senior Assistant Minister of Justice; in 744, appointed official envoy to Tosando; in 746, appointed Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Ceremonial; in the same year, appointed the governor of Settsu; and in January 747, raised to Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade; and in 750, raised to Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade; and in 752, appointed the Governor of Musashi Province. Since Musashi Province was the largest province in the region, it was, under ordinary circumstances, the last place the Heguri clan with their own social standing to produce a governor. During this time, Hironari had been seeing KIBI no Makibi, who studied in Tang China as a student, wielding power and falling. On March 11, 753, Hironari died as Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade, the Governor of Musashi Province, which was the end of his extraordinary life.

[Original Japanese]