Up Next

Cultural Traces Around the World

The Rich Indigenous Culture of the Ryukyuan People

Download Docx
Read More
The Ryukyuan people are an East Asian indigenous group native to the Ryukyu archipelago that dots the vast Pacific Ocean. Traditionally, the Ryukyuan people have been strongly influenced by ancient Chinese customs, and contemporary Ryukyuan culture has also integrated rich Japanese cultural elements. The earliest Ryukyuan islanders trace back to about 30,000 years ago.

Ryukyu people have their own distinct culture, language and religion, and most parts of their lifestyle are significantly different from Japanese mainlanders. The Ryukyu native religion features ancestor veneration and respect for the relationships between the living, dead, and the gods and spirits of the natural world. The ancient sacred religious sites and royal architecture are an important cultural heritage of the Ryukyu Kingdom which lasted from 1429 until 1879.

Ryukyu lacquerware, made from the lacquer tree, is specifically distinguished by the embedded seashells design, rich native Ryukyuan artistic motifs, and a strong red lacquer style; the Ryukyu lacquerware artwork found in a household may include interior furniture, storing cabinets and boxes, and dining ware. The time-honored designs on yachimun are generally simplified auspicious motifs, such as thickly wooded plants meaning vitality or a fish pattern meaning prosperity of posterity. Ryukyu traditional glassware production began in the early Meiji era (1868-1912).

Weaving was an important tradition in the old days. Kijoka-bashofu is the art of making traditionally woven cloth and has been practiced since the 13th century in Okinawa. Bingata is a traditional stenciled resist dyeing technique dating from the Ryukyu Kingdom period, and it was believed to be an integration of the dyeing processes from India, China and Java.

The artistic Ryukyuan people are rich in their age-old music and dance arts. The well-known martial art of karate was created by ancient Ryukyu people during the Ryukyu Kingdom period. Combining Chinese kung fu and Ryukyu native techniques, karate is now a complete system of self-defense and a popular martial art all over the world.

The traditional staple foods of Ryukyuan people on the Okinawa Islands are primarily plant-based, and customarily potato, sweet potato, and taro root have been eaten. Furthermore, Okinawan Ryukyuan people treat food as medicine and utilize many practices from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Share To
Start Time
Watch in mobile browser
Scan the QR code,
or choose the right phone system to download