About this page.....

I started doing research on old Chinese histories which contain sections on early Japan, or the Land of Wa, back in 1997. The search for the "Mesopotamia of Japan" goes on in a most intrigiuing way and the whole subject is quite popular here in Japan -- there are over 500 books and articles in Japanese dealing with Yamatai, Himiko and the Gishiwajinden. To go through all of them and glean the information would take a lifetime. What I've done so far is just a small beginning.

I've taken the following excerpt from my work as it deals with Himiko, the main and most interesting figure of the study of Yamatai. As a help to writing up this main document, I've put some type in BLUE -- info that needs to be verified -- and some type in RED -- notes to myself.

For those who do not have Japanese capability in their browsers, you will see quite a number of strange characters in the text. If you do have Japanese, change the Character Set to Shift_JIS to enable proper viewing.

The fine print: If you'd like to "borrow" anything off this page, please email me first. Copyright laws pertaining to digital media are applicable.


The Chronicles of Wa

Gishi4 Wajinden5 é°Žu˜`l“`

An Account of the People of Wa6

As Recorded in the Books of the Kingdom of Gi,

Dealing with the Eastern Barbarians,7

Written by the Chinese Historian, Chinju8 (232 233?-297),

In the Year 285,9 being the First Account

Of the People of Japan in the Annals of History10


Section 3: Political and Diplomatic Matters

Queen Himiko

This country196 originally had a man who was made ruler.197 Some seventy or eighty years before,198 however, the land of Wa became agitated199 and the years passed with the countries making raids on each other. They at last together set up200 a woman, making her ruler, whom they called Himiko.201

She uses sorcery202 to skillfully hold203 the people. She has reached quite an old age204 already and has no husband.205 She has a younger brother who helps her with political affairs.206 Very few have seen her since she became ruler.207 She has 1000 maidservants208 who wait upon her willingly. There is only one man who serves her meals and goes in and out to deliver messages.209

Around her residence of the palace and tower is a stockade210 strongly built, with soldiers keeping guard at all times.



5 Literally "Legend of the People of Wa," one of the chapters in the 30th fascicle of the Gisho entitled "Account of the Eastern Barbarians (Toiden “ŒˆÎ“`)." Two other chapters are on the Ugan and Senpi peoples of Manchuria, and the remaining eight chapters deal with other Manchurian as well as Korean peoples (see Appendix 11 for an explanation on all of these non-Chinese). The Wajin Account consists of 2008 2024? characters (see actual Chinese script in Appendix ?), surpassing all the other accounts, only Kokuri coming close in depth of coverage. In entirety, the title of the work we are dealing with here would be Sangokushi, Gisho, Toiden, Wajinjo, i.e. "History of the Three Kingdoms, Books of Gi, Account of the Eastern Barbarians, Chapter on the People of Wa."

6 Also can be pronounced Wi or Wu. A number of theories have been offered on the origin of this word: 1) what the Chinese heard when a Wajin was referring to himself, waga or ware, or even watakushi, though this term is modern; it is highly doubtful that the Wajin language was anything like the Japanese language today (see further comments in Appendix ?? on the early language of the Wajin); 2) the people are subject to women, specifically Himiko (the — part of the character ˜` means "woman"); another reading for this character is shitagau, or "obey"; 3) the people are similar to midgets or dwarves, as the Chinese character shows, though the left radical of the first character for dwarf (waijin áâl) is different. Strangely, however, a number of histories of Japan in English explain that, to the Chinese, Wa meant "dwarf," a stereotype I feel, however, is not supported by skeletal remains unearthed from this period when they are compared with those of neighboring Asian nations. See "Early Written Records" in the Preface for additional references for Wa. As mentioned before, in later chronicles the term "people of Wa" ˜`l was replaced with "the country of Wa" ˜`‘. Still later, in the early 8th century, the Japanese themselves discarded the character for Wa because of its less-than-honorable meaning, and changed all references to their land to nihon (nippon) “ú–{, the current characters used for Japan, meaning literally "source of the sun." Such change can be seen in the 2nd Kutojo ‹Œ“‚‘ (10th century) and the Shintojo V“‚‘ (11th century). Incidentally, upon typing yamato on a Japanese word processor and converting to kanji, the character for wa ˜` comes out, an interesting character conversion verified in all Japanese character conversion code dictionaries. Anesaki makes these comments on the etymology of yamato:

The etymology of the word Yamato is disputed. According to the commonly accepted theory it means "Mountain-gateways," because the region is surrounded by mountains on all sides and opens through a few passages to the regions beyond the mountain ranges. This seems to be a plausible interpretation, because it is most natural to the Japanese language. But it is a puzzling fact that the name is written in Chinese ideograms which mean "great peace." However, the ideogram meaning "peace" seems to have been used simply for the Chinese appellation of the Japanese "wa," which, designated in another letter, seems to have meant "dwarf." Chamberlain's theory is that Yamato was Ainu in origin and meant "Chestnut and ponds." But this is improbable when we take into account the fact that the ponds, numerous in the region, are later works for irrigation.

7 See Appendix 11.

8 Chen Shou ’ÂŽõ. He wrote this massive work when he was 44 years old, and, after his death at age 65, his work became known as a highly factual and dependable history, enjoying immediate wide circulation. He relied on the earlier histories, namely the Giryaku (though it is thought that these two chronicles were actually produced during the same period), to which he had access as well as first-hand accounts from the Wajin themselves. What were these earlier histories? Unknown. Did he actually visit the land of Wa? Also unknown, though some scholars feel he had indeed been in Wa due to the clarity of his descriptions. On the other side of the coin, however, there are many sections of his account that are lacking in clarity, which seems odd for such a historian of his caliber.

9 The actual date of compilation is unknown; estimated somewhere between 280 and 289.

10 The first full account, that is. Other early writings are in the Zenkanjo Chirishi ‘OŠ¿‘’n—Žu, Shinjo W‘, Nanseijo “ìåT‘, Ryojo —À‘, Kokuri Kotai Ohibun ‚‹å—íD‘¾‰¤”è–Á<-leave this out?, Gokanjo Waden ŒãŠ¿‘˜`“` (Hou Han Shu), Sosho Wakokuden ‘v‘˜`‘“` (Sung Shu), and Zuisho Wakokuden ä@‘˜`‘“` (Sui Shu), and ???????? in QUEENDOM, though these are mostly repeats of the Gishi Wajinden (hereafter referred to as the Gishi). Chinju relied on other earlier texts, namely the Giryaku é°—ª, called the "mother of historical documents." On an interesting side note, a fellow by the name of Kakotan ‰ÄŒó’X wrote what is called the Gisho, History of Gi, in the year ???. After looking over what Chinju had written, he felt his own work was so inferior that he burnt it. See Bibliography for works on these titles.

196 Many think the country of Yamatai, others feel the whole Federation is meant. Incidentally, the word Yamatai occurs only once in this entire chronicle (see note 75).

75 Said to possibly mean "an amazingly large, wonderful land," though literally the characters mean "sinister horse support," which is meaningless and could only be another example of ateji (giving phonetic readings to Chinese characters) which in modern times have disparaging connotations. Whatever the meaning, the volume of discussion on its location is just as amazingly large and wonderful. This, after all, is our centerpiece country, the focal point of our history of the Wajin, though the word Yamatai appears only once in this entire Chronicle. According to the Kyushu theory, Yamatai is somewhere to the south of Fukuoka. Possible sites are Amagi, Asakura, Kasuga, Usa, Yamato in Saga, and the Omuta and Kumamoto areas. The Kinai Theory holds basically that Yamatai is actually read Yamato and refers to that area of present-day Yamato, around Nara. For futher discussion on this highly controversial subject, see Appendix 12. There is also quite a bit of controversy surrounding the two different characters for tai, šã (the old character for ˆë, which is the first character of Iki Island) and äi (the old character for ‘ä, which is currently used in Yamatai). See also note 257. Other readings: Yamedai, Yabadai. A little more on the characters used for Yamatai -- the Zuisho and the Hokushi both use entirely different characters, –ë–€‘Í, which are also obviously ateji, nevertheless have an interesting connotation according to Kinai theorists. See note 76. Mizuno brings out additional readings for each of the characters: Ya = Ja or Yo, ma = ba, nu, bo or mu, tai = dai or i.

197 One translation inserts here "just like the country of Kuna."

198 A difficulty of ascertaining the correct time frame arises upon considering the other chronicles: the Gokanjo and the Zuisho read, "During the reigns of Kan and Rei". However, the Gyoran Gishi, Ryojo and Hokushi read, "During the glorious and peaceful reign Œõ˜a’† of Emperor Rei of Kan." The reign of Emperor Rei was from 178 to 238<-Verify!!, a span of 60 years. The Kan-Rei period Šº—ìŠÔ in the Gokanjo gives us the period from 147-188 or 189<-Verify!!. Both the Nanseijo and the Shinjo state simply that the Great Wa Rebellion was "at the end of the Kan dynasty," which would put it before 220 AD. As for when these years began, the most reasonable explanation is that these 70 or 80 years of Rebellion covered the period up until Himiko's enthronement in 240, which would be the same period as mentioned in the Gokanjo and would also explain the use of "before" in the translation here, i.e. before Himiko was made queen. This whole note needs more clarification; difficult understanding Mishina's notes, p. 123-124. Sugimoto gives the years 178-183 for Rei's Œõ˜a’†.

199 Known as the "Great Wa Rebellion," the period from 178-183 147-188?, according to the Gokanjo. The cause of this Rebellion was due to the Later Kan Court in Rakuro, which supported the Yamatai Federation, weakened under the fierce attacks from the Korean tribes of Kan and Wai. Another factor could be the spread of iron tools (especially for use in agriculture) as a means of extending political control.

200 We will again see this later in this annal that both a man-king and Himiko's successor, Toyo, were also "set up" by the people, a clear indication of the development of a democratic-type government. No doubt Yamatai's former man-king was in the same way "elected" to the position of supreme ruler. The question arises as to who exactly was involved in this election process, whether the entire Federation of Countries, or solely the country of Yamatai, and whether Himiko was merely selected from a "divine lineage."

201 Here is the first mention (out of four in this Chronicle) of Himiko (b. 167 d. 247) in the annals of Chinese and Japanese history. Her name consists of three characters, ”Ú–íŒÄ, literally meaning "called increasingly vile" (wretched wench?). One wonders how and why the Chinese selected these characters in view of the fact that she was considered very close to the Gi empire (note 217). Other readings: Himiha, Himiku, Hibiko. The generally accepted view of the meaning of Himiko “úŒäŽq is "Child of the Sun," appropriate for her shamanistic and charismatic reputation. Some adhere to the reading Himeko as being more consistent with the representative characters hime •P and ko Žq, meaning "princess child," which would aptly describe the monarchic aspect this popular figure. This name appears later in the Heian Period records. Others think Himiko was an abbreviation of Hime-mikoto, though it is doubtful any such name was used in the 2nd or 3rd centuries. One theory has it that she was Empress Dowager Jingu _Œ÷c@ who reigned from 201 to 269, the only empress during the first millenium of Japanese imperial rulers, if, of course, one can rely on the Nihon Shoki dates as correct; others believe her to be various historical figures, most having the suffix hime.<-See pp. 127-128 in Mishina for the names of these

There have been scores of theories and hundreds of books and articles written in Japan about this mysterious figure (her name first appears in this Chronicle), beginning from as far back as the 13th century. She was no doubt of immense importance, having great control over the people of Wa for half a century. Just how she wielded this control is, too, not without controversy. However, the Chinese historian tells us the secret of her power, the use of sorcery, which conjurs up in one's mind the image of a "good witch" ruling the land. Yet this alone could not have possibly sustained the Wa government. Enter the brother of Himiko, the one who could have very well been the stabilizing factor in this land of the Queen by managing the actual governing of the union of states. Sadly we know him only by this short reference. Others insist Himiko was an actual governing queen due to her diplomatic prowess with mainland China, a valid point since Chinese records are all we have at present to determine who she was and what she did. Nevertheless, the first characteristic of Himiko given us by the Chinese is that she used sorcery.

Sorcery, soothsaying, enchantment, wizardry, necromancing, etc., is nothing new in history, as is noted in Hislop re Astarte. Societies in fear of the great unknown relied on such magical practices to assure them of good crops, good health and overall prosperity in their lives.

The following is an excerpt from Hori in which he makes two suggestions regarding this passage (pp. 188-192):

The first is that Himiko was enthroned by her people at an apex of political and social crisis, when she was only fourteen or fifteen, to judge from the fact that her reign continued sixty-eight years. The second point is that Himiko's personality and character seem to be typical of the shamanic queen in the ancient Japanese theocratic ages. From the archaeological viewpoint, Himiko's reign falls at the end of the Yayoi period, which spans from the introduction of agriculture to the appearance of the local kingdom, and the beginning of the Kofun period, symbolized by large mounds erected for the dead of the ruling class, and during which there was a gradual formation of the unified empire centering in the Yamato dynasty of the Tenno (or Mikado) family.
It seems to me important that this highly shamanic and charismatic girl was enthroned in order to meet a social crisis presumably caused by civil war in a transitional period of revolutionary political, economic, social, and cultural changes at the juncture of the Yayoi and Kofun periods. Having compared Himiko's function and character, some historians take her to be a female local chief in Kyushu who appears in the Nihongi; others take her to be Amaterasu-O-mikami (Great Sun Goddess, mythical ancestor of the imperial family) or Yamato-totohi-momoso-hime, or take Himiko and her male attendant to be Emperor Suinin and his daughter Yamato-hime, Empress Jingu and her prime minister Takeshiuchi-no-sukune, Empress Suiko and Crown Prince Shotoku, or Empress Saimei and Crown Prince Naka-no-Oye (later Emperor Tenchi). It is interesting to compare the fact that the Ryukyus were ruled by the Sho dynasty under a combination of a king and his sister or niece as a shamanic priestess, the latter ruling over all the shamanesses and priestesses in the kingdom, until the Meiji era.


202 Kido ‹S“¹, literally "the way of the spirits (of the dead)." The Gokanjo reads kishin no michi ‹S_‚Ì“¹, "the way of the spirit gods." This term occurs two other times in this History of Gi ("teaches the people using kido"), and once in the History of Shoku. It is believed that "the way of the spirits" originated in Tao (“¹, "the way"), China's oldest religion dating back to the 6th century B.C., which began in its new magical form to roar through China from the Later Kan dynasty in the 2nd century. Himiko, no doubt, was caught up in this mystical wind of ascetic doctrine centering on the occult. See notes in Hearn, "Ancient Cult" in "Japan - An Interpretation," pp.21-. Also see Queendom, pp. 38-, re use of this phrase. Sorcery mixed with governing could be the etymology behind the old Japanese word for government, matsurigoto, meaning "festival thing." See Hearn on this. Also Hall, p. 34. Some feel Himiko was simply a very religious person rather than a shamaness. It is noteworthy that shamanesses outnumbered shamans in the southern Korean peninsula, Ryukyu islands, and many parts of Japan as revealed in a study recorded in Folk Religion in Japan (p. 181); shamanesses were common among early societies.

Shamanism involves ecstasy and trances, and a source of inspiration for these. Hori mentions that the six early empresses who reigned in Japan "frequently visited sacred mountains, sacred waters, and sacred hot springs" as recorded in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. Could these sacred sites also be where Himiko was fond of frequenting for the purpose of obtaining the power of the gods through communication with them in some sort of mystery rites and seances? All cultures have had some sort of priest, a go-between, which would act as the giver of the divine oracles, revealer of the will of the gods, medicine man, soothsayer, fortune teller, medium, seer, or mystic, whose services were especially needed in times of wars, famines, and other social crises. Even today shamans can be found in Central and Northern Asia, Korea, Japan, as well as among many African and South American tribes. No doubt Himiko's divination skills were vital during the fighting with Kuna. In the Nihon Shoki there is a word (saniwa »’ë) that appears, which in old Japanese means a transmitter or interpreter of divine words, a title given to Takeshi-uchi, Prime Minister serving under Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu, who herself was said to be "divinely possessed" just prior to her smiting "the Land of the barbarian Kumaso." See further comments in Appendix 14. See ASTON, p. ii.68 re divination and the calendar, esp. with reference to Book of Changes (see Chinese mythology book, too). It may be good to mention the Meso-Americans and other native American tribal astronomy in which Venus played an important part in determining when to make war, sacrifice captives, plant crops, etc., basically using the sun, moon and stars to help them make decisions by developing a calendar for the year. Therefore the elaborate buildings perfectly aligned to view the morning star in its various phases, the sun during the equinoxes. It would be interesting to try to find similar astronomy structures and/or practices among the Wajin. Are there any??

Chinju was no novice to occult practices. China had long been under the influence of the Book of Changes and its teachings on the rites for divination, viz. through the interpretation of omens using the Eight Diagrams (see note 168).

203 Control or manipulate; the original character means "deceive, seduce, charm" ˜f. Some translate this as "bewitch." All infer some sort of shamanistic mass hysteria, perhaps through the use of chanting or magical formulas and gaudy ceremony, to control the populace. The Kojiki records "wizards and witches (literally "male and female shamans") pretending an inspiration of the gods," persuading the people to throw away their valuables and set sake and food outside their homes, presumably that they may indulge themselves. The most common method of effecting such results among the populace was no doubt by playing on their fear of the dead, i.e. the belief that the vindictive spirits of the dead would come to haunt the living. This fear, incidentally, can be seen to this day in the care of the dead, viz. burial methods and subsequent memorial services, daily offerings, tomb cleaning, etc. That a sorcerer was in a position of leadership was nothing new to the Chinese as many high officials in the early governments of China were diviners, influenced by the magical arts of I King ˆÕãS, the Book of Changes; even today the leaders of many Asian countries rely on divination. Put this here?->Ferguson writes, "The conception of the individual, governed by his own innate sense of right and wrong, as forming the basis of the state, is associated with practices of divination by means of which the immediate actions of the individual should be determined and the results of his actions foretold."

204 It has been estimated that she became queen in 184 at the age of 15 and received the gold seal and ribbon in 240, at which time she would have been around 70 years old. Chart in Mizuno-> Himiko born c. 167 and becomes Queen in 190 at age 22 or 23, and dies in 247, age 80. Verify these dates! Note 199 above says war period ended in 183, hence Himiko enthroned the next year?

205 Meaning she remained single her whole life, not uncommon among shamanesses.

206 Ancient rulers usually had two arms of government, the religious and the secular (Nihon Shoki, p. i.155n: "In the early days of Japan the king and high priest were identical. Both the civil and religious functions, however, might be equally delegated."). Here we have the religious being under the control of the main ruler, Himiko, and the secular, or political, being under the control of the brother. Other examples of this in Japanese history are Yamato-takeru and Yamato-hime, and the Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu. Some view this brother to be none other than Yamato-takeru, who .......<-Get more info on him. He's mentioned in the Japan Guidebook in section re Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya where his sword is enshrined. Others feel he better identifies with the Emperor Sujin.

207 Probably due to her sequestering herself in confinement to give the more to her rites of divination, not unlike the monks and nuns of later years. Even today in Korea there are sorceresses who have isolated shrines which contain mirrors and other divining apparatuses with which they practice their trade.

208 A band of miko or priestesses who also practiced sorcery and divination. The text clearly notes they all served the Queen of their own free will and not out of compulsion. Some feel this grand number is exaggerated.

209 This male is not to be confused with her younger brother.

210 Palace: a large hall ‹{Žº, large enough for Himiko's attendants; tower: a lookout žêæV, probably over 10 meters in height; stockade: literally "castle fence éò," a fenced enclosure surrounded by a moat, normally 4.5m deep and 9m wide, also noted in the Fuyo and Shinkan accounts. Examples of these different types of structures have been reproduced on sites such as Yoshinogari in Saga and Sannai Maruyama in Aomori. However, it is impossible such small reproductions could suffice for the thousand attendants of Himiko, not to mention the quarters for the Queen herself and all the necessary official buildings which were no doubt present in her time. The towers and fenced enclosures are indeed possibilities. Yet to be discovered are the palatial buildings and storehouses that prove a large settlement as is recorded in this Chronicle. On a side note, in ancient China large villages usually were surrounded by ramparts made of earth and sometimes double-walled. The Chinese have always had a love of walls it seems. Well known is the grandest of all walls, the Great Wall of China, extending thousands of miles from the east coast of China all the way to the Gobi Desert. Walled cities of course can be found worldwide and in all ages -- Jericho was one such city known for its walls. However, to the first-time traveler in Japan the abundance of walls is most striking, as if each home were a castle in itself. Perhaps this is another bit of that evidence proving a deeply-ingrained Chinese culture here in this land.
Info on Yoshinogari --- place here or make separate Appendix on these various sites?:

Remains of a State-like Society in Ancient Japan

Lying in southern part of the Yoshinogari hills the middle part of present-day Saga Prefecture the Yoshinogari remains date from the Yayoi period, which lasted from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Japan first appeared in the historical records of the world with a reference to the country of Yamatai* in a Chinese chronicle from the Wei dynasty (AD 220-265). The location of Yamatai has been disputed for hundreds of years among historians. At Yoshinogari, the remains have captured the imagination of the many people who add to the annual throng of visitors: the scale, the layout, and other findings at the site suggest that Yoshinogari might as well be the remains of Yamatai.

The main features at Yoshinogari are the outer moat that surrounds the roughly 400,000-square meter (478,360-square yard) site, and, inside this, two inner moats which girdle two clusters of residences, storehouses, towers, and other structures. Moreover, gorgeous clothing and ornaments have been unearthed from a 2000-year-old burial mound at the northern most end of the site, at what is believed to have been a tomb of one of the rulers of the time. From the scale of the site, its layout, and the types of artifacts found there, Yoshinogari seems to have been more than a simple ancient village. Some say that the evidence of the remains proves that the society of the time had already achieved a state structure.

 * Yamatai was the name of the realm of Queen Himiko who created a state in the first half of the 3rd Century by forming alliances while conquering political oppositions.

Location: Kanzaki Town, Mitagawa Town, and Higashi Sefuri Village in Saga Pref.
Area of the Ruins: About 400,000 sq m (478,360 sq yd)
Excavation work: 1986-1989
From: http://www.jinjapan.org/atlas/historical/his15.html<-Recheck this for recent data


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