Literatur:Miyake T 2012

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Toru Miyake 2012
„Wakō to Wang Zhi.“ St. Andrew's University Bulletin of the Research Institute 37/3 (2012), S. 173-196.



This paper aims to describe the history of the East China Sea area in the medieval Japanese age, with an emphasis on the activities of wako in the area. Their activities have been largely neglected in official historical accounts as marginal. Wako is often defined as "Japanese pirates" in the 14th to 16th centuries. This simplified definition, however, fails to give the entire picture of wako. It is true that wako in their early days were Japanese who raided neighboring Korean islands and coasts for food and local people, whom wako used as their slaves or sold elsewhere as slaves, but this is only part of the wako history. In the latter half of the 14th century, the Mongols, who ruled China in those days, invaded Kyushu, the western part of Japan, twice (in 1274 and 1281), but failed to conquer the country and had to withdraw. A great many people in northern Kyushu suffered the damage caused by the two wars, but the Japanese government in Kamakura did not have enough property for compensation. Some of the dissatisfied common people, as well as samurai warriors, in northern Kyushu began to sail as far as Korea and eventually China sometimes to trade and sometimes to attack and pillage coastal towns and villages. They were referred to as wako and were a source of fear for Koreans and Chinese. The Mongolians were defeated in China and expelled to the north of the border in 1368. The newly-established Ming dynasty faced two problems: the Mongolians, who retreated into the north and the wako, who advanced to the southeastern part of China. While they were busy defending themselves against Mongolian invasions, the Ming dynasty imposed a strict ban on overseas trade by private citizens and merchants for fear that they might cooperate with wako intruders. The Chinese government monopolized overseas trading and began to trade formally with the Muromachi government in Japan, which had replaced the Kamakura government in 1333. The Japanese and Ming trade was temporarily suspended in 1423 as a result of a clash between two Japanese trading ships. Some Chinese merchants took advantage of this incident and started smuggling with Japanese. They joined hands with Chinese pirates to protect themselves and their trading goods. Eventually, they armed themselves and came to work together with their Japanese counterparts. Although the word wa means "Japanese", Chinese predominated the wako in the middle of the 16th century. There were Koreans, Southeastern smugglers, and even Portuguese among the wako. One of the most prominent wako leaders was Wang Zhi (?-1559). He was originally a Chinese merchant, but he joined wako groups after he failed in his business in the 1530s. He sailed to Japan as a smuggler and settled in Goto, an island at the western end of Japan, and later in Hirado, a seaport in the northwestern tip of Kyushu. According to official school textbooks in Japan, two Portuguese visitors to a small island introduced matchlock muskets to Japan in 1453. Actually, however, their visit to Tanegashima island was arranged by Wang Zhi, who decided that the gun business was his new business opportunity. Wang also helped a Portuguese mercantile ship to come to Hirado, the first visit ever by Westerners to mainland Japan. By this time he was acknowledged as the paramount wako leader and the most wanted pirate by the Ming dynasty. In 1548, the Ming authorities attacked an island off Ningbo, a port for official Japanese-Ming trade. The island had served as the largest base for wako activities since 1526, but now their facilities were completely destroyed, and wako had to retreat from the island and seek new bases elsewhere. This triggered a series of large counterattacks by Chinese wako. They raided southeastern coastal cities. The Ming dynasty could not control them any longer, and many cities were captured and looted, and numerous innocent citizens were killed during the raids. The wako attacks lasted until 1557 when Wang Zhi decided to return home from Japan to China after his mother, wife and children were held in custody. He was executed later in 1559. The other Chinese wako fled west to the Fujian and Guangdong area. It was at the end of the 16th century that wako disappeared from the South China Sea. As we have seen above, wako were not necessarily "Japanese pirates". They were armed smugglers consisting of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Southeast Asians. They contributed a great deal to the economic development and advance in civilization of the East China Area in the transitional period from the medieval age to early-modern times of Eastern Asia.