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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

That Yoshimitsu opened friendly relations 1401


These

things happened in 1380. In the following year Taitsu despatched a duly credited envoy who used menacing language and was sent back with a defiance from Prince Kanenaga. The priest, however, was set free in 1382, and having learned while in Japan that two Courts were disputing the title to the Crown, he informed the Chinese sovereign in that sense, and the latter subsequently addressed himself to Kyoto, with the result noted above, namely, that Yoshimitsu opened friendly relations (1401). It was to the Ouchi family of Suwo that the management of intercourse with Chosen was entrusted, the latter sending its envoys to Yamaguchi. Subsequently, after Ouchi Yoshihiro's disaffection and disaster, a Buddhist priest and well-known artist, Soami, acted as Muromachi's envoy to the Ming Court, being accompanied by a merchant, Koetomi, who is described as thoroughly conversant with Chinese conditions. By these two the first commercial treaty was negotiated. It provided that an envoy should be sent by each of the contracting parties in every period of ten years, the suite of this envoy to be limited to two hundred, and any ship carrying arms to be regarded as a pirate.

The first envoy from the Ming Court under this treaty was met by Yoshimitsu himself at Hyogo, and being escorted to Kyoto, was hospitably lodged in a hotel there. Instructions were also issued from Muromachi to the officials in Kyushu, peremptorily interdicting piracy and ordering the arrest

of any that contravened the veto. Further, the high constables in several provinces were enjoined to encourage trade with China by sending the best products of their localities. In fact, Yoshimitsu showed himself thoroughly earnest in promoting oversea commerce, and a considerable measure of success attended his efforts. Unfortunately, an interruption was caused in 1419, when some seventeen thousand Koreans, Mongolians, and "southern barbarians"--a name given promiscuously to aliens--in 227 ships, bore down on Tsushima one midsummer day and were not driven off until the great families of Kyushu--the Otomo, the Shoni, the Kikuchi, and the Shiba--had joined forces to attack the invaders. The origin of this incident is wrapped in mystery, but probably the prohibition of Japanese pirates was not enforced for the protection of Chosen, and the assault on Tsushima was a desperate attempt at retaliation.

Yoshimochi, however, who was then shogun, seems to have associated China with the invasion, for a Ming envoy, arriving just at the time of the contest, was indignantly refused audience. Thereafter, the tandai appointed from Muroinachi to administer the affairs of Kyushu was driven out by the Shoni family, and the shogun's policy of checking piracy ceased to be enforced, so that the coasts of China and Chosen were much harried, all legitimate commerce being suspended. When Yoshinori became shogun, however, this was one of the directions in which he turned his reforming hand. A Buddhist priest, Doen, proceeded to the Ming Court as Muromachi's delegate, and the Chinese sovereign agreed to restore the old relations, transmitting for that purpose a hundred tallies to be carried by the merchantmen. These tallies were distributed to several high constables, to five great temples, and to merchants in Hyogo and Sakai, the corresponding tallies* being entrusted to the Ouchi family, which, having now recovered its power, was charged with the duty of superintending the trade with China. Meanwhile, So Sadamori of Tsushima had established commercial relations with Chosen, and received from thence a yearly consignment of two hundred koku of soy beans, the vessel that carried the staple being guarded by boats known as Tsushima-bune.

*The tallies were cards on which a line of ideographs were inscribed. The card was then cut along the line, and a moiety was given to the trader, the corresponding moiety being kept by the superintendent.


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