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Unformatted text preview: e sea to the east made it the “source of the sun,”
would give them greater prestige in the eyes of the Chinese. Whether or
not it did, eventually it was the Chinese pronunciation of Nihon—Jihpen
—that was transmitted back to Europe by Marco Polo in the thirteenth
century and incorporated into the European tongues in forms like the
The Japanese dispatched a total of four missions to Sui China during
the period 600–614 and fifteen to T’ang between 630 and 838. The
larger missions usually consisted of groups of about four ships that transported more than five hundred people, including official envoys, students, Buddhist monks, and translators. Some of these visitors remained
abroad for long periods of time—up to thirty or more years—and some
never returned. The trip was exceedingly dangerous, and the fact that so
many risked it attests to the avidity with which the Japanese of this age
sought to acquire the learning and culture of China.
Although there are no replicas or contemporary drawings of the ships
used in the missions to Sui and T’ang, we know that their sail and rudder
systems were primitive and that they were obliged to rely on the seasonal
winds. They usually left in the spring, when the prevailing winds were
westward, and returned in the winter, when the winds blew to the east.
The shortest route to the continent was across the 115-mile channel that
separates Kyushu from southern Korea. But sometimes the Japanese
ships were blown off course and drifted far down the Chinese coast. During most of the seventh century, when relations with Korea were poor, the
Japanese set sail directly for South China, although the passage was longer
and more difficult. The return trip, which almost always began from the
mouth of the Yangtze River, was the most treacherous of all. A miscalculation or an accidental alteration in course could carry the ships into the
vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Often they landed on islands in the Ryukyu
chain and were obliged to make their way home as best they could. T...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13